A "Disappointed" Yoshihiro Akiyama Not Pleased With UFC 116 Opponent Change

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DCRage
6/24/10 10:18:21AM
And to make matters worse, there's even a chance Akiyama himself will pull out of the event over this according to a translation of comments he made to a Korean website. "I am not pleased with the change. There are just ten days left until the contest for me to determine [Leben’s] threats and the time is insufficient to establish a tailored gameplan. Leben is also not as high-profile as [Wanderlei] Silva and that does not help me. If there is to be a replacement I was hoping for a big name. I spent one year preparing hard for this fight and this news has come as a big disappointment, my motivation has waned. I do not know yet what will happen ... In the worst case, I will not take part in the [UFC 116] event. We are working hard to resolve this issue."

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cowcatcher
6/24/10 10:23:26AM
man this sounds like it could turn ugly. im a huge fan of the sexy one, and i hope he doesnt try to somehow back out of this. leben isnt that much different that wandy stylistically, both guys are going to come out swinging, but that fact that hes a southpaw might be why sexyama seems to think its going to have to be a whole new gameplan.
Jackelope
6/24/10 10:25:03AM
I can understand and appreciate this. The guy has a career to worry about. He stands nothing to gain from fighting Leben due to the fact that he IS a much smaller name than Wanderlei. I think Akiyama knows that Leben has some serious threats. Mostly in the form of that left hand. Why take a fight against a guy you have nothing to gain from beating when there is such a chance to take a fluke KO loss simply because you didn't have a game plan built?

Leben has everything to gain. Akiyama has nothing to gain. Like it or not this is a business sometimes.
emfleek
6/24/10 10:27:29AM

Posted by Jackelope

I can understand and appreciate this. The guy has a career to worry about. He stands nothing to gain from fighting Leben due to the fact that he IS a much smaller name than Wanderlei. I think Akiyama knows that Leben has some serious threats. Mostly in the form of that left hand. Why take a fight against a guy you have nothing to gain from beating when there is such a chance to take a fluke KO loss simply because you didn't have a game plan built?

Leben has everything to gain. Akiyama has nothing to gain. Like it or not this is a business sometimes.



Agreed. However, I would not be surprised if Dana disagrees and really wouldn't be surprised to see him released from his contract if he *does* pull out of the fight.
Giant_Ochai
6/24/10 10:47:12AM
I'd pull Akiyama from the card right now and find another middleweight to fight Leben. Then I'd terminate Akiyama's contract.
Twenty20Dollars
6/24/10 11:22:55AM
Starting not to like Akiyama after this comment, I bet if he pulled out of the fight it would be the end for him in the UFC.

You know Leben is a pretty big name replacement & I dont think Akiyama could have gotten a bigger replacement than Leben. It's just part of the fight game and it happens. Akiyama could have said he was disappointed but no reason to come out & say you might pull out of the fight.

MisterFreeze
6/24/10 12:11:56PM

Posted by Giant_Ochai

I'd pull Akiyama from the card right now and find another middleweight to fight Leben. Then I'd terminate Akiyama's contract.



I Agree! This makes Akiyama sound more like a *****, not a fighter.

If Akiyama backs out I will lose all respect for him. If he goes in there and fights his heart out, that would be the best thing he could do in this situation, win or lose.
cowcatcher
6/24/10 12:48:48PM
i like the choice of leben, but isnt vitor ready by now? to me thats more of a marquee opponent, but either way im hoping this was just sexyama talking off the cuff and things are just going internet wild now about it.
RyanC
6/24/10 12:58:16PM
Not much of a warriors mentality from Akiyama, and he's fighting a guy who I think would literally fight anyone, anytime, anyplace. I do not think that is going to bode well for Akiyama. So much of fighting is mental, and if he goes into the fight against Leben lacking confidence that could be a very bad thing.

Not gonna be surprised at all if he pulls out of this, and bears the wrath of the UFC brass.
bjj1605
6/24/10 1:14:13PM
I can see where you're coming from Jackelope (and I can see where Akiyama is coming from) but it's not going to sit well with Dana. Think about it: Wandy pulls out of a main card fight with an injury and is so apologetic that he sounds like he would have rather fought injured. The UFC goes out of their way to find a replacement. Leben steps up and takes the fight on short notice. He's not that different an opponent than Wandy and he's a decent name. He's not a former champ or anything but he was a TUF member, he's been around forever, and he's had some wars. Maybe Akiyama underestimates his popularity vs Wandy because in Japan it would be a no-contest. In the US Leben still has a good following.

I agree with what other people have said, if he tries to pull out of the fight Dana will probably give him the boot. And if he doesn't try and pull out of the fight he's probably already pissed off Dana with this comment.
Wallass
6/24/10 1:14:43PM
Agreed with the above statement. Am I the only one that doesn't understand why Wand vs Akiyama HAS to happen. Its been in the works for years and I dont see why everyone NEEDS to see this. Its not like its Carwin vs Lesnar, Anderson vs Shogun which are both legit dream matches. Plus, in my opinion neither Wand or Akiyama are in the top ten in the world at Middleweight and Leben probably is a better fighter then Wand anyways.
RyanC
6/24/10 1:18:07PM

Posted by Wallass
Leben probably is a better fighter then Wand anyways.



Seriously?
Jackelope
6/24/10 1:29:58PM
BJJ- I hear you and what Dana chooses to do is his own thing. I can tell you this much, though- Akiyama brings him asian fans that not many other fighters on his rosters will or can. So I don't think it's going to boil down to as simple of a situation as you all seem to be assuming it will. Akiyama could be his foot in the door in Japan and believe me he wants a piece of that market.

I'll also add this- Akiyama is from a very different culture than you, me, and the rest of the posters posting. I highly doubt Akiyama feels the need to prove himself as a "******* fighter" like American fans seem to find so important. Akiyama views himself as a businessman and as a product. When you're thinking of his motivation it's important to weigh that in.

I'm sorry but Chris Leben is NOWHERE near the name in Japan that Wanderlei is. Wanderlei is like a God in Japan. Leben is just some dude with stupid hair over there. I think a lot of people aren't considering these dynamics.
RyanC
6/24/10 1:35:55PM

Posted by Jackelope

BJJ- I hear you and what Dana chooses to do is his own thing. I can tell you this much, though- Akiyama brings him asian fans that not many other fighters on his rosters will or can. So I don't think it's going to boil down to as simple of a situation as you all seem to be assuming it will. Akiyama could be his foot in the door in Japan and believe me he wants a piece of that market.

I'll also add this- Akiyama is from a very different culture than you, me, and the rest of the posters posting. I highly doubt Akiyama feels the need to prove himself as a "******* fighter" like American fans seem to find so important. Akiyama views himself as a businessman and as a product. When you're thinking of his motivation it's important to weigh that in.

I'm sorry but Chris Leben is NOWHERE near the name in Japan that Wanderlei is. Wanderlei is like a God in Japan. Leben is just some dude with stupid hair over there. I think a lot of people aren't considering these dynamics.



I did not consider any of this when weighing this situation, but for me, a fan, it doesn't really change anything. You signed up to fight one person, and he got hurt. That is unfortunate, but the UFC did what they always do in this situation they try to find a replacement fighter which they did. They even found a replacement fighter that is stylistically similar to Wanderlei. I can understand Akiyama being disappointed, and even upset, but he should still fight.
cowcatcher
6/24/10 1:39:27PM
like i said in an earlier post, these comments may have been off the cuff and might be getting all blown out of whack now. if youre in his shoes you might be a little disappointed when your match with a huge star from back home has to drop out of a match with you and suddenly someone calls you and asks for your thoughts about him dropping out. everything jackelope said was spot on too, the fight is just over a week away, we'll see what happens between now and then, but its pretty silly to think this guy that is a high level fighter is suddenly scared or not a real man now from behind a keyboard.

EDIT: as a fan it is like a shot to the stones hearing that though.
RyanC
6/24/10 1:45:29PM

Posted by cowcatcher
its pretty silly to think this guy that is a high level fighter is suddenly scared or not a real man now from behind a keyboard.



For the record I will never suggest a fighter is scared to fight. I hope that is not how any of my comments were recieved.

I'm just surprised Akiyama is looking at this in the way that he is. I understand the difference in opponent, and the ramafications of win/loss because of the opponent change. But I would have expected Akiyama to be licking his chops at the chance to fight a guy coming off of a fight only 14 days earlier. Leben and Wanderlei are similar creatures as far as their mentality in the ring. It's kill or be killed and not much in between. I wouldn't see how Akiyama's preparation could have been thrown off that much.

Just surprised by this is all I guess.
cowcatcher
6/24/10 1:52:35PM
i wasnt tossing that at you or anyone else in particular ryan.

its the internet and at other sites thats getting tossed around and i was just saying that as a pre-emptive thing against anyone getting out of line here.
Jackelope
6/24/10 1:54:32PM

Posted by RyanC

I did not consider any of this when weighing this situation, but for me, a fan, it doesn't really change anything. You signed up to fight one person, and he got hurt. That is unfortunate, but the UFC did what they always do in this situation they try to find a replacement fighter which they did. They even found a replacement fighter that is stylistically similar to Wanderlei. I can understand Akiyama being disappointed, and even upset, but he should still fight.



Well I appreciate your acceptance of that fact for sure. Also I do understand the fans' perspective on the whole matter. I just think it's an overly passionate and reactionary response that shows little care for anything besides what they personally want. Speaking frankly, anyways.

Stylistically I would not consider them the same fighter. Although maybe at MW they are the closest two you could get. I understand that both have a brawling mentality but there are many differences as well. Kicks aren't really a part of Leben's arsenal. Leben is a southpaw, Wanderlei is orthodox. Leben has a completely different stance with arm position, etc. Basically what I'm saying is Akiyama would have to change his footwork, type of strikes, and defense for Leben. That's just the standup game. That's not taking into account takedowns, etc. etc. What I mean to illustrate is that there are a lot of things that go into a game plan for a well rounded fighter like Sexyama.

Chris Leben isn't exactly someone who needs a game plan. He has the same game plan every time he goes in there. He wants to get people caught up in a brawl and land the big left. That's it. Every. Single. Time. As long as he's healthy and in good enough shape he doesn't necessarily need to tailor a training camp around a game plan. Not to marginalize his training by any means.

Anyways it's cool for everyone to have their own opinions but I just wanted to lay out the facts so as to make people aware of these things and hopefully stem the flow of haters that are sure to respond to this comment from Sexyama.
RyanC
6/24/10 2:03:23PM

Posted by cowcatcher

i wasnt tossing that at you or anyone else in particular ryan.

its the internet and at other sites thats getting tossed around and i was just saying that as a pre-emptive thing against anyone getting out of line here.



Nothing drives me nuts more than the keyboard tough guy syndrome that afflicts many of the MMA sites around the internet. If they are in the cage they are tougher than any of us. (barring anyone who is fighting)
RyanC
6/24/10 2:06:09PM

Posted by Jackelope


Posted by RyanC

I did not consider any of this when weighing this situation, but for me, a fan, it doesn't really change anything. You signed up to fight one person, and he got hurt. That is unfortunate, but the UFC did what they always do in this situation they try to find a replacement fighter which they did. They even found a replacement fighter that is stylistically similar to Wanderlei. I can understand Akiyama being disappointed, and even upset, but he should still fight.



Well I appreciate your acceptance of that fact for sure. Also I do understand the fans' perspective on the whole matter. I just think it's an overly passionate and reactionary response that shows little care for anything besides what they personally want. Speaking frankly, anyways.

Stylistically I would not consider them the same fighter. Although maybe at MW they are the closest two you could get. I understand that both have a brawling mentality but there are many differences as well. Kicks aren't really a part of Leben's arsenal. Leben is a southpaw, Wanderlei is orthodox. Leben has a completely different stance with arm position, etc. Basically what I'm saying is Akiyama would have to change his footwork, type of strikes, and defense for Leben. That's just the standup game. That's not taking into account takedowns, etc. etc. What I mean to illustrate is that there are a lot of things that go into a game plan for a well rounded fighter like Sexyama.

Chris Leben isn't exactly someone who needs a game plan. He has the same game plan every time he goes in there. He wants to get people caught up in a brawl and land the big left. That's it. Every. Single. Time. As long as he's healthy and in good enough shape he doesn't necessarily need to tailor a training camp around a game plan. Not to marginalize his training by any means.

Anyways it's cool for everyone to have their own opinions but I just wanted to lay out the facts so as to make people aware of these things and hopefully stem the flow of haters that are sure to respond to this comment from Sexyama.



Wow, great post, great analysis. I guess I looked at Leben and Wand both for the brawling style and looping punches, but I failed to consider the lefty vs. right dynamic as well as some of the other nuances that you have pointed out. I suppose this is a little more dicey than I first though. Especially when you consider that Leben is Leben for the most part no matter who he is fighting.

bjj1605
6/24/10 3:20:18PM

Posted by Jackelope

I'm sorry but Chris Leben is NOWHERE near the name in Japan that Wanderlei is. Wanderlei is like a God in Japan. Leben is just some dude with stupid hair over there. I think a lot of people aren't considering these dynamics.



That was the point I was trying to make. In Japan Chris Leben isn't anywhere near the star that Wandy is. But in the US I think there star power is a lot closer to even, even though Wandy still has a considerable edge IMO. My point was that while Leben might not seem like much of a star coming from a Japanese perspective (as Akiyama surely is) he's probably a bigger star than Akiyama realizes in the states.

Looking at himself like a product and taking it from a business perspective, he should be trying to sell himself to US fans now. He's already a big star in Japan. Fighting and beating Leben would surely raise his stock over hear. The statement he made is likely to lower his stock (figuratively speaking of course, he's not Akiyama INC.). One of the reasons a guy like Chuck Liddell (or Wandy) was so popular is because he had that image of being willing to "fight anyone, anywhere, anytime". That might not be a part of the Japanese fighting culture like it is over here but if he has a decent manager who understands American fans that would be the kind of image he tried to portray.

All I'm saying is that the image portrayed by this statement is out of line with the expectations of American fans (his current buyers) and Dana White (his current boss).
Jackelope
6/24/10 3:24:19PM
I would agree with you on that point for sure.

The one caveat I would add is that Japanese tend to be slightly egotistical and as far as Akiyama is concerned he probably doesn't care too much about what a lot of American fans think. Not saying it's right or wrong- just saying it might be a factor.

I do absolutely concede the fact that from an American fan's perspective his stock could go down if he backs out of the fight. I guess maybe you weigh the risk of his stock going down by backing out vs. his stock going down by taking a loss to Leben. I honestly couldn't say which is worse and a lot of it would depend on the performance. I think long term backing out is the smarter move to be honest. Most fans will have forgotten about this by his next fight if he puts on a good show.

Who am I kidding? Most casual MMA fans have no idea who the hell he is. So I'd say for sure he stands more to lose by taking the fight.
BlueSkiesBurn
6/24/10 3:36:54PM
Akiyama backing out of this fight doesn't bother me in the slightest. Leben isn't a can. He's an accomplished fighter who's very tough. When they do replace injured fighters it's not USUALLY someone of Leben's caliber. Lil Nog didn't get Thiago Silva, he got Jason Brilz. However, I respect the opinions of the "for" and "against" Akiyama backing out of this fight. I would think that there's a solution to this. Akiyama can tell Dana that he will fight Leben at 117 and you move a fight from 117 up.
Jride
6/24/10 3:50:58PM
If Akiyama backs out of this fight, I will never root for him again.. Thats bull.

Did you hear Lil Nog complain when Forrest got replaced by Jason Brilz? No. and who was Jason Brilz? A virtual nobody in the LHW division and he shocked the world by giving Nog a true fight.

Remember when Jardine complained about Houston Alexander not being a legit fight for him? We saw how that went.

DCRage
6/24/10 4:29:43PM
The fight will go on. Just confirmed a short time ago that Akiyama's agreed to the fight despite his earlier protests.
warglory
6/24/10 5:25:44PM
I think a few fighters (not many thank God) feel like the organization and the fans must cater to their wants and needs, when in reality, it is and should be the other way around. This is a spectator sport first and foremost, and these fighters are paid to play the game in front of people. I understand that a fighter only has so may fights in him, but in the UFC he has a guaranteed purse, and at this point, every fight is a competitive fight in the UFC. If any fighter at this caliber is nervous about putting their rep on the line against a lesser fighter, then they are obviously not mentally confident enough to be champion. Any and all challenges should be the motto of all UFC fighters, because that is kind of the point of the sport.
ncordless
6/24/10 5:32:28PM
I am glad that Akiyama is still going to take the fight, and I also understand why he wouldn't be happy to have ten days to train for a southpaw.


If Akiyama had pulled out, I don't think there is much of a chance he would have been released. Akiyama is their most important asian fighter, and their only portal to Japan and their biggest portal to South Korea. It is kind of hard to fathom here, but he is a pop star over there. Saying goodbye to Akiyama would be saying goodbye to the Asian market.
MaxOne
6/24/10 5:57:44PM

Posted by Jackelope

BJJ- I hear you and what Dana chooses to do is his own thing. I can tell you this much, though- Akiyama brings him asian fans that not many other fighters on his rosters will or can. So I don't think it's going to boil down to as simple of a situation as you all seem to be assuming it will. Akiyama could be his foot in the door in Japan and believe me he wants a piece of that market.

I'll also add this- Akiyama is from a very different culture than you, me, and the rest of the posters posting. I highly doubt Akiyama feels the need to prove himself as a "******* fighter" like American fans seem to find so important. Akiyama views himself as a businessman and as a product. When you're thinking of his motivation it's important to weigh that in.

I'm sorry but Chris Leben is NOWHERE near the name in Japan that Wanderlei is. Wanderlei is like a God in Japan. Leben is just some dude with stupid hair over there. I think a lot of people aren't considering these dynamics.



exactly right. I personally lose no respect for Akiyama. I think it'd be a bad idea for him to fight Leben on such short notice and I think it's a bad idea in general for him to fight Leben. It does nothing for his career.

However, if he takes the fight it would impress me and i would be happy to watch.
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