Koubousen Companion: News and Notes from Japan

News and Notes

By Jordan Breen Jan 30, 2007
The old maxim says that planning is everything, and it certainly doesn't cease to be the case just because kicks to the face are par for the course. This week, we examine the big plans promoters have in store for the coming months.

Dream Stage Entertainment certainly has a large agenda of objectives for 2007, and makes inroads in America is among the most important. However, DSE boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara is not willing to overlook some of the smaller details, and feels pushing English skills on PRIDE's fighters will pay dividends in their American endeavors.

While DSE looks to make headway in the U.S., Zuffa is globalizing its product and bringing in a healthy crop of Japanese talent, much of which is scheduled to be on display in April. Dokonjonosuke Mishima (Pictures), Kuniyoshi Hironaka (Pictures) and Naoyuki Kotani (Pictures) have all been tabbed for Octagon appearances in April, and Caol Uno (Pictures) and Keita Nakamura (Pictures) may be making UFC returns. Japanese fighters may have an opportunity to make an “ultimate” impression in April.

You've already gotten a preview of what the Shooto 2007 rookie tournaments will have to offer. Now, Shooto's new blood are ready to roll. Plans are finalized, and the Shooto rookie tournaments kick off in a big way in the month of March. Kitazawa Town Hall and Zepp Nagoya will play host to seven rookie tournament bouts, setting the stage for Shooto 2007's rookie competition.

Meanwhile, not all plans have gone smoothly for Shooto promoters in organizing BACK TO OUR ROOTS. Nonetheless, Sustain has announced the official bout order for the stacked Feb. 17 in Yokohama.

Coming into 2007, perhaps no one had bigger plans that "KID" Norifumi Yamamoto (Pictures). His Olympic dreams took a hit this weekend at the Emperor's Cup when a dislocated elbow ousted him in unceremonious fashion. However, the Olympic dream isn't over for the Japanese superstar, who stated that despite the injury he will continue to prepare for June, when he will have another chance to take a step toward a Beijing Games bid.

In contrast to Yamamoto's adversity, things are looking up for Pancrase. While president Masami Ozaki had lofty goals in mind for the home of the hybrid wrestlers in 2007, it was uncertain if he could make them work. What better way to conquer your objectives than teaming up with billionaire Calvin Ayre? A burgeoning deal with BodogFIGHT has got Pancrase primed for a very, very productive and prosperous year.

DSE execs ask fighters to enhance English skills

With mixed martial arts exploding in America, the 2007 game plan for Dream Stage Entertainment and PRIDE has a prominent focus in the United States. Following a successful first trip across the Pacific this past October, DSE has scheduled several American starting with their “Second Coming” card on Feb. 24, in addition to dates in April, June and Oct.

However, in an effort to make inroads in the American market, DSE executives have deemed it necessary for PRIDE fighters to step up their training, not by hitting the gym, but by hitting the books and learning English.

“It's similar to what happened in Japan five or six years ago,” said DSE boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara. "The general audience in America is starting to understand MMA."

Sakakibara himself had brushed up on his linguistic skills, working diligently to deliver his speeches to the American media and fans in English. Sakakibara and other DSE executives feel it's important for PRIDE's fighters to learn English so that they can communicate with and endear themselves to the American fans.

The Japanese media have already began to needle native fighters with questions regarding their English skills. Hayato Sakurai (Pictures), who often spends time in the Seattle area to train at AMC Pankration, recently faced questions regarding his English proficiency from reporters.

"If I had to speak English for this fight, I could say punch, kick, hiza … wait, hiza is ‘knee’ in English," laughed Sakurai, who is scheduled to face former KOTC lightweight champion Mac Danzig (Pictures) in Las Vegas.

Japanese fighters prime for Octagon impact in April

Japanese competitors will continue to grace the Octagon this coming April. As previously reported here, a bout between former Shooto world champion Caol Uno (Pictures) and Joe Stevenson (Pictures) is currently in the negotiation stages, and is a possibility for either the UFC Fight Night card on April 5 or the April 7 UFC pay-per-view event in Houston, Texas. Also, three other Japanese competitors are scheduled to compete in the UFC this coming April.

Previously slated to face Spencer Fisher (Pictures) in Oct., Naoyuki Kotani (Pictures) is now scheduled to make his UFC debut against top-flight undefeated Brazilian prospect Thiago Tavares (Pictures). Meanwhile, veteran Dokonjonosuke Mishima (Pictures), looking to atone for his disappointing Octagon debut against Joe Stevenson (Pictures), has agreed in principle to face UFC lightweight title challenger Kenny Florian (Pictures). Also, making an unsuccessful UFC debut was Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Kuniyoshi Hironaka (Pictures), who has agreed to face Canadian Jeff Joslin (Pictures).

All three bouts are currently scheduled for April 5. However, since the matches have not yet been officially signed, one or more of the bouts may yet be shifted to the April 7 card in Houston.

"K-Taro" Keita Nakamura (Pictures), who came out on the losing end of a hotly contested decision against Minnesotan Brock Larson this past Dec., is also a possibility for an April bout in the Octagon. Nakamura was the leading candidate to face Shooto world champion Shinya Aoki (Pictures) in Feb., however Nakamura has remained dedicated to fighting in the UFC at the present time.

"K-Taro" has vigorously weight trained in an effort to get bigger and stronger to compete amongst the very physically dominant class of fighters in the UFC's 170-pound division.

Shooto rookies ready to roll in March

The 2007 Shooto rookie tournament series will finally kick off on March 4 with GUTSMAN Shooto Dojo stage 2007's first Shooto card at Kitazawa Town Hall in Tokyo, and continue through the month with ALIVE's Shooto GIG Central Vol. 12 on March 25 at Zepp Nagoya.

Three rookie tournament bouts are slated for March 4, in the 123-, 154- and 167-pound tournaments. Wajyutsu Keisyukai TIGER PLACE's Shinobu Miura will meet Hayato Sakurai (Pictures) student Kunio Nakajima, with the winner meeting Paraestra Sapporo's "Aroi" Michiyuki Ishibashi (Pictures) in the quarterfinals.

In 123-pound tournament action another Hayato Sakurai (Pictures) pupil, Yuichiro Takase, will take on Paraestra Matsudo fighter Yosuke Ebihara (Pictures). Undoubtedly the biggest of the rookie tournament fights, SUBMIT Shizuoka fighter Akihiro Yamazaki faces PUREBRED Omiya's Matteus Irie Nechio, who recently won the open-weight division of the ADCC Japan Kanto region qualifier.

Rookie tournament action will continue in Nagoya on March 25 with four more bouts. In a 183-pound rookie tournament quarterfinal, Paraestra Kakogawa's Takashi Goto will meet Shooto Sotokai Mimura's Makoto Maeda, who is campaigning under the ring name "Chomolangma 1/2."

In 132-pound tournament action, K.O. Shooto Gym's Satoru Ota will take on Wajyutsu Keisyukai Tokyo submission stalwart Yuuta Nezu, with the winner moving on to face former All Japan amateur Shooto champion Hiromasa Ougikubo of Paraestra Matsudo in the quarterfinals.

In a 167-pound quarterfinal, 2005 All Japan amateur Shooto champion Tomokazu Yuasa (Pictures) of Shooting Gym Osaka will meet hometown fighter Yousuke Kume of ALIVE, who reigned at the 2006 All Japan amateur championships. Another 2006 amateur Shooto king and a student of Dokonjonosuke Mishima (Pictures), Teppei Masuda of Cobra Kai MMA Dojo will begin his pro Shooto career against NASCER DO SOL's Hiroshi Sakamoto (Pictures), with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals of the 123-pound rookie tournament to face "UK" Suguru Inoue (Pictures) of Paraestra Hakata.

Sustain reveals “BACK TO OUR ROOTS” bout order

In other Shooto-related news, Sustain has revealed the official bout order for its Feb. 17 “BACK TO OUR ROOTS” anticipated card at the Pacifico Yokohama National Convention Center.

As was expected when Tatsuya Kawajiri (Pictures) vacated his Shooto world 154-pound title, thereby canceling his scheduled participation on the card, the 167-pound world title rematch between champion Shinya Aoki (Pictures) and challenger Akira Kikuchi (Pictures) will headline the Yokohama card.

It will be second time Aoki has headlined a Shooto card, and the third for Kikuchi. However, neither man has done so during a Shooto event at a venue larger than Korakuen Hall, making it the first super-card headliner for either man.

The evening will begin with the 132-pound clash between 2005 Shooto rookie MVP Takeya Mizugaki (Pictures) and debuting Atsushi Yamamoto (Pictures), who has thus far cut his teeth in Pancrase. The fight will be followed by two bouts in the 154-pound class, which are particularly intriguing with the divisional Shooto world title now vacant. In the second bout on the card, Koutetsu Boku (Pictures) will look for revenge against Kenichiro Togashi (Pictures), who defeated him in June of 2003, while Yusuke Endo (Pictures) will look to avenge his Dec. 2005 loss to Ganjo Tentsuku (Pictures) when he meets the bleached brawler on the third fight on the card.

In the fourth bout on the card, 143-pound world champion "Lion" Takeshi Inoue (Pictures) will take on veteran Hiroyuki Abe (Hiroyuki Abe' class='LinkSilver'>Pictures) in a non-title affair, while Inoue's teammate Tenkei Fujimiya (Pictures) will look to capture the vacant 143-pound Pacific Rim championship when he meets his former KO victim Akitoshi Tamura (Pictures) in the fifth bout.

In the evening's semifinal bout, Takashi Nakakura (Pictures) and Mizuto Hirota (Pictures) will square off for the 154-pound Pacific Rim title, in another contest that holds particular importance to a now wide-open Shooto welterweight division.
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