Will Shinichi Kojima take his first step back to Shooto gold in August? | Photo: Stephen Martinez/Sherdog.com
Shinichi “BJ” Kojima, once the world’s top-ranked flyweight, is set to end a two-year layoff from the ring on Aug. 6.
Officials from Japan’s Shooto organization announced Thursday that Kojima will square off against Masaaki Sugawara in the 123-pound co-main event of “Gig Tokyo 7” at Tokyo’s Shinjuku Face. The bill’s top bout will see Wajutsu Keishukai grappler Katsuya Toida and once-beaten Krazy Bee prospect Issei Tamura clash in a potential title eliminator for Shooto’s vacant 143-pound throne.
Former Shooto world 123-pound ace Kojima, 32, has not been seen in the ring since dropping a unanimous decision to his Shooto South America counterpart, Jussier “Formiga” da Silva, in a July 2009 non-title match. In February 2010, Kojima relinquished the belt which he had held for nearly four years, citing a ruptured ACL in his right knee that would prevent him from defending in the time frame required under the rules of Shooto.
Upon vacating his title, Kojima stated that he hoped to return by the end of 2010 to challenge his successor. While the comeback is late and the title fight not immediately available -- current world 123-pound titlist Yasuhiro Urushitani is booked for a July 18 defense against Yuki Shojo -- Kojima has been handed no easy out in Sugawara. The 31-year-old snapped a two-fight losing streak in October with a vicious stoppage of Ayumu “Gozo” Shioda, then followed up by battering Shinichi Hanawa for nearly three full rounds on June 11 before finishing his former WK teammate with a rear-naked choke.
One additional 123-pound contest was confirmed Thursday for “Gig Tokyo 7,” a two-round, Class-B bout between the division’s 2009 Shooto rookie champion, Yosuke Saruta (a.k.a. “Flying Monkey No.2”), and Rumina Sato-pupil Akinobu Watanabe.