Japanese judoka-turned-fighter Satoshi Ishii will take part in Rizin Fighting Federation’s inaugural eight-man heavyweight tournament.
Ishii revealed his participation on Saturday via Twitter, and Rizin confirmed the announcement on Monday with a formal announcement. Rizin also announced the withdrawal of England’s Mark Godbeer, who suffered a neck injury in training; Godbeer will be replaced by another representative from British promoter BAMMA.
The 2015 Rizin Fighting World Grand Prix launches Dec. 29 and concludes Dec. 31 as part of Rizin’s multi-day New Year’s Eve festivities in Saitama, Japan. Other fighters confirmed for the opening round are “King” Mo Lawal (U.S.), Vadim Nemkov (Russia), Goran Reljic (Croatia), Bruno Henrique Cappelozza (Brazil) and Teodoras Aukstuolis (Lithuania).
Ishii’s decision to compete for Rizin comes as a surprise, since the show will go head-to-head with the annual New Year’s Eve “Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye” card from wrestling and fight promoter Inoki Genome Federation. More than half of Ishii’s 19 professional bouts have taken place inside the IGF ring, and the 28-year-old has been part of “Bom-Ba-Ye” for the past three years.
Ishii lost his IGF heavyweight title and a subsequent rematch to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic at the end of 2014 but has rebounded this year with quick submissions of American imports Nick Rossborough and William Penn. The Osaka native has worked with numerous camps and trainers over the years; on Nov. 24, he shared of a photo of himself alongside onetime opponent Fedor Emelianenko and former K-1 champ Ernesto Hoost.
Today's training wit fedor n Ernesto pic.twitter.com/vaR10pYwYl— Satoshi Ishii | 石井 慧 (@SatoshiIshii) November 24, 2015
Editor’s note: This article was updated Monday, Nov. 30, at 12:50 a.m. PT to include additional information released by Rizin.