Yushin Okami’s post-UFC career begins next Saturday in Las Vegas. | Gleidson Venga/Sherdog.com
When the UFC released Yushin Okami last September, it came as a bit of a shock.
Okami had been a fixture in the company’s middleweight division since 2006, and his release came not after a string of defeats but a single loss to ex-Strikeforce champ Ronaldo Souza. According to Okami, though, it did not take long to get over his unceremonious Octagon exit.
“My manager told me I had been released on the wire. I don’t remember my reaction much. I guess I was surprised at first,” Okami said in a recent statement, “but I always prepare the worst when I lose, so I recovered my composure with time. Thankfully I received offers from many promotions as soon as my release was announced. I received offers from Japan, Asian promotion[s], and also promotions from Europe.”
It was only a matter of weeks before the 32-year old Wajutsu Keishukai fighter found a new home with another Las Vegas-based organization, World Series of Fighting.
“When WSOF presented an offer for me, I was very happy. WSOF is a new promotion, so history is going to be made here and now, and I plan on being a part of it,” said Okami. “I think that the great opportunity to make history and the exposure with NBC made the difference for me. I think that the center of the MMA is North America.”
Okami’s history with WSOF will start next Saturday, March 29, when he faces Bulgarian prospect Svetlozar Savov on the main card of WSOF 9 at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Vegas. While Savov is a relative unknown to stateside fight fans, WSOF’s 185-pound division does hold some bigger potential fights for Okami, namely fellow former UFC fighters like David Branch, Danillo Villefort and Jesse Taylor.
“WSOF has several powerful middleweight fighters, and I know that this would be a better challenge for me,” Okami stated. “Svetlozar Savov has high physical ability... He is a young, energetic fighter with an aggressive fighting style. But my skills are more evolved, and I will put pressure on him at all times an attack him with my wider range of skill. I’m sure this will bring me a victory.”
While some fighters cut by the UFC will sign short-terms deals with another organization with the hope of quickly returning to the Octagon, this does not appear to be the case for Okami. As one of WSOF’s biggest free agent signings, a win over Savov could put “Thunder” in position to vie for the promotion’s vacant middleweight belt -- and that is exactly what Okami is hoping for.
“My main focus and only goal is to become the WSOF champion, and I’m going to start on that March 29 with Savov. Don’t miss it!”