Yushin Okami brings credibility to the WSOF middleweight division. | Photo: Gleidson Venga/Sherdog.com
A surprising victim of the Ultimate Fighting Championship chopping block, Yushin Okami has landed in the World Series of Fighting.
Still considered one of the world’s 10 best middleweights, Okami was released by the UFC following a first-round technical knockout loss to Ronaldo Souza at UFC Fight Night 28 in September. He had compiled a 13-5 record within the promotion, challenging for the 185-pound title in 2011. The UFC’s decision caught many, including Okami, off-guard.
“I was surprised at first when my manager told me on the wire,” he said. “I don’t remember my reaction much, but I always prepare for the worst when I lose, so I recovered my composure with time.”
To no one’s surprise, Okami was inundated with proposals from other organizations looking to incorporate top-level fighters into their plans. After considering all offers, he elected to sign with WSOF.
“Thankfully, I received offers from many promotions as soon as my release [was] announced,” Okami said. “I received offers from Japan and other Asian promotions and also promotions from Europe. I think the center of the MMA is North America, and WSOF has many powerful middleweight fighters. Also, WSOF is a new promotion, so I want to make history with them. These are just some of the reasons why I decided to go with WSOF.”
World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo in October announced plans to work alongside Pancrase CEO Masakazu Sakai to expand into Japan. The prospect of contributing to the success of the venture excites Okami, who owns a 15-1 record fighting in his native country.
“Mr. Sefo told me that he wants to liven up Japanese MMA more,” he said. “I want to help him to realize that with all my might. I want to participate in a WSOF match held in Japan.”
Before he can fulfill that desire, Okami must face Svetlozar Savov in his promotional debut at WSOF 9 on Saturday at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The 25-year-old Bulgarian has won five of his last seven fights.
“He has high physical ability, and I feel his movement of one-on-one is very powerful,” Okami said. “I cannot find out his real [ability] from his past fights; I want to see his [ability] with my own eyes through the fight. He is a young and energetic fighter, and also his fight style is aggressive, so it will match with my fight style that is more evolved.”
An MMA veteran with more than 12 years of experience, Okami has fought in various organizations all over the world, from Pride Fighting Championships and Pancrase to the UFC. Now, he begins his climb within the World Series of Fighting.
“WSOF is a newer promotion, so the history is going to made starting from now,” Okami said. “The difference in rules between the promotions and the way of scoring is not my problem; the winner is strong. That’s the way I see it. As for the level of talent, there are many young and powerful, well-balanced and also experienced fighters.”
If he succeeds against Savov, Okami wants to work towards a shot at the vacant WSOF middleweight crown.
“It doesn’t matter [who I face next,” he said. “I’m only working hard to be a champion.”