Dream’s Akiyama Rumored in Talks with UFC, Sengoku
Akiyama Rumored in UFC Talks
Oct 18, 2008
AKASAKA, Japan -- The wheels of Fight and Entertainment Group’s annual “Dynamite!!” hype machine got rolling Saturday when the promotion and broadcasting partner, Tokyo Broadcasting System, held a public press conference at Sacas Plaza.
One notable name missing from an official list of possible participants released for the New Year’s Eve extravaganza was Dream's biggest rating draw, Yoshihiro Akiyama. Akiyama is reportedly no longer under contract to FEG, while fighter and promotion are rumored to not be on good terms.
A move to rival outlet Sengoku is likely, as Akiyama has expressed interest in facing fellow judoka, Hidehiko Yoshida, in what would be a huge money match. Akiyama is also believed to be in talks with the UFC, as Zuffa is said to be building their ranks for a possible Korean invasion.
The conference, attended by hundreds of fans, raised more questions about the New Year’s card than it answered.
No matches were announced, but K-1 Event Producer Sadaharu Tanigawa stated that there will be 15-20 fights offered, broken down between 10 “Dream rules” MMA matches and a few K-1 rules bouts. It was not announced which fighters would be fighting under which rule set although crossovers are common.
While Dream Event Producer, Keiichi Sasahara mentioned that not all fighters in attendance would be able to fight at the “Dynamite!!” event, he did promise matches befitting of the event’s title. And although the majority of names mentioned so far are Japanese, Sasahara hopes to bring in an equal number of foreign fighters.
Kazushi Sakuraba was in rare form Saturday in Akasaka.
Serial jokester and New Year’s Eve mainstay, Kazushi Sakuraba, was present although still sporting a cast on his arm as a result of his June loss to Melvin Manhoef. Always enigmatic, Sakuraba said that while his arm has been much better lately, he can't confirm that he will be fighting on New Year’s Eve. But with a welcome change in attitude from his hesitancy to compete in the middleweight tournament, he did state that he would like to.
In the meantime, Sakuraba has been put to work behind the scenes “undercover” as part of the crew at recent Dream events. For proof, he wore his construction gear to the press conference.
Dream lightweight grand prix champion Joachim Hansen received a fitting welcome, but ultimately redirected the attention away from himself and to his undefeated stablemate Simeon Thoresen.
“I'm honored to be fighting on a big event on New Year's Eve,” said the Norwegian. “I'll train my hardest to have an exciting fight. My sparring partner, Simeon Thoresen, and I came here for DEEP on October 23, so please come to see us."
Also on the dais, lightweight standouts Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Mitsuhiro Ishida were all given the opportunity to issue a challenge amongst the pool of attending lightweights, but declined.
Beijing Olympics heavyweight judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii, who recently expressed interest in fighting Fedor Emelianenko and then quickly changed his mind, was not in attendance, but was used in promotional videos.
Possible New Year’s Eve “Dynamite!!” Participants
Atsushi YamamotoCaol UnoGegard MousasiHayato SakuraiHideo TokoroIkuhisa MinowaJoachim HansenKatsuyori ShibataKazushi SakurabaKiyoshi TamuraKuniyoshi HironakaMasakatsu FunakiMasakazu ImanariMirko "Cro Cop" FilipovicMitsuhiro IshidaNorifumi "Kid" YamamotoSeichi IkemotoShinya AokiTakeshi YamazakiTatsuya Kawajiri
Hong Man Choi