The Man with Two Souls
A rising star in his ethnic home of South Korea -- and at once a celebrated and reviled athlete in Japan -- Yoshihiro Akiyama represents by far the UFC’s greatest East Asian acquisition to date. Though reaction to his signing was subdued in the West, hearing he had opted to sign with the American mixed martial arts juggernaut -- instead of landing with Sengoku or K-1 -- was big news for fans in Japan in South Korea.
“I did consider fighting in Japan, but because of my age and the notion that the major leagues are in the US, I felt that the major leagues of MMA was the UFC,” Akiyama says. “No one can really go to the UFC just because they want to. The chances are very limited. I received the offer, and since it was my dream to fight on a larger stage, everything all came together at the right time, and I decided to go.”
As one of the best talents raised in Japanese MMA, Akiyama seems more than worthy to step into the Octagon. However, pundits view Akiyama’s ancestry and celebrity as an ethnic Korean as the keys to Zuffa’s plans, should the company expand into South Korea. Akiyama’s stardom in that country extends beyond combat sports and borders on that of a bona fide pop star.
Surprisingly, Akiyama does not believe his heritage alone will help the UFC grow in Korea. In fact, he expresses reservations with the idea and voices concern over the pervasive and trite overemphasis on national and ethnic identity.
“I think a lot of people tend to focus too much on nationality, and when they try to assert or put me into either category [Korean or Japanese], I’m saddened by it,” he says. “A lot of ‘Zainichi’ Koreans (ethnic Koreans living in Japan) feel the same way -- where they don’t know if they’re Korean or if they’re Japanese.”
Like many ethnic Koreans born, raised and living in Japan, Akiyama has dealt with the difficulties of fitting into two cultures, under constant scrutiny and with little room for foreign inclusivity; the consequences can be seen in his struggles in judo and MMA over the past eight years. Nevertheless -- unlike his harshest critics and detractors -- he harbors no bitterness; that allows him to reconcile and appreciate both identities.
UFN 19 May Be In Oklahoma City
Sources close to UFC and the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission have confirmed that talks are underway to host UFC Fight Night 19 in Oklahoma City. The tentative date is September 16 and the event would lead into The Ultimate FIghter 10 premiere.
Pat Miletich: ‘Dana has never told me anything that ended up being the truth’
It’s been quite some time since Pat Miletich and Dana White were friends and business associates. If one was to trace the divide between the two back to it’s origin they would find that the split was cemented with Miletich’s decision to become part of the International Fight League that has since gone under.
On last night’s episode of ESPN’s E:60, the founder of Miletich Fighting Systems made his current feelings about the UFC president quite clear.
Mario Yamasaki tapped as referee for UFC 98 Evans-Machida main event
Veteran MMA official Mario Yamasaki has been tapped as the referee for next month's UFC 98 title fight between UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans and top contender Lyoto Machida, MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) has learned.
The assignment was revealed during today's Nevada State Athletic Commission hearing at the Grant Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas.
UFC 98 takes place May 23 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and Evans vs. Machida is the night's main event.
Affliction VP Tom Atencio: Third MMA show ‘being put together right now’
The third Affliction show is being put together right now, so I will give everybody what they want. It’s just one of those things that takes time. I always say this over and over and over again: This is only our third event. It’s not like we’ve done small events prior to our first one. It takes time to re-structure and figure everything out. Yeah, I understand the fans and people want us to continue, but when you’re new to it, you take your time because you want to get it right. You don’t want to make the same mistakes that I’ve made on the last two shows.
Fighter At Heart, Nate Diaz Learning The Game
The Diaz brothers, Nate and Nick, share the same hatred for anything that dilutes fighting. The very idea of MMA as a sport riles them. They wish for the old days.
“I wish these fights were unlimited time, like 30-minute fights or 10-minute rounds,” Nate told MMAWeekly.com.
American Top Team Camp Report
The top athletes at American Top Team continue to grow and get big fights each and every day. From Thiago Alves taking his shot at Georges St. Pierre at UFC 100 for the UFC welterweight title, to Gesias "JZ" Cavalcante fighting Tatsuya Kawajiri in Dream later this month, the Florida based American Top Team produces some of the best talent in the mixed martial arts world.
Beyond the names already mentioned, the team also boasts a slew of talented fighters that will likely be hitting the main stage of the UFC, Strikeforce, or another organization very soon.
Could Matt Serra's UFC 98 Fight Be His Last?
While he hasn't made a decision either way, there is a chance that Matt Serra could retire from fighting after the Matt Hughes fight at UFC 98. He wouldn't leave MMA completely as he'd stay active through teaching at his schools, but according to Serra it's a possiblity-after he fights Hughes then has some pizza & pasta for the first time in 3 months.
Despite opponent change, Miesha Tate comfortable with "win-win" situation
Things have changed quickly for Miesha Tate (6-1).
From Shawnee to Showtime, Tate has gone from a rural Oklahoma fight to national television in just four months.
And as Tate prepares to meet undefeated Canadian Sarah Kaufman (8-0) on the main card of Friday's "Strikeforce Challengers" event in Fresno, Calif., the Washington resident is excited with every last adjustment.
Dana White's Key Decisions
Jake Rossen did a post over at his blog on Sherdog on Dana White's best decisions. It's hard to argue that any of his choices were bad decisions, but they don't get at the heart of why he's been so successful.
Dana routinely makes very good month to month business decisions, but the most crucial decisions are the ones that aren't so readily apparent. Signing Lesnar was great for business, but it doesn't explain why Brock's debut for the UFC did 650,000 buys while his actual MMA debut bombed on pay per view. The following decisions get to the heart of the question of why the UFC is so successful.
Strikeforce "in dialogue" with Roxanne Modafferi, Kaitlin Young
With a featured female bout between Sarah Kaufman (8-0) and Miesha Tata (6-1) scheduled on its May 15 "Strikeforce Challengers" series event in Fresno, Calif., the rapidly expanding organization is in discussion with two more female contenders.
Strikeforce officials have indicated the organization is having "dialogue" with Roxanne Modafferi (13-4) and Kaitlin Young (4-2).
Strikeforce has quickly become a premier destination for female fighters following the demise of ProElite.
Rising from the Slums
In Brazil, where an estimated 50 million people live in favelas, or slums, it’s common for a child to dream of changing his or her life through sports.
In years past, kids have aspired to follow in the footsteps of soccer idols like Romário and Ronaldo, both of whom were born in the Rio de Janeiro favelas. Nowadays, the popularity of mixed martial arts in Brazil and the growth of its international market have attracted more athletes from these poor communities who aim to become the next Wanderlei Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira or Anderson Silva.
*one of the best reads in a long time*
Cung Le Not Ready To Ditch Real Fighting
Cung Le may be on his way to movie stardom, but he still wants to get in the cage.
This year, the Strikeforce middleweight champion will have four movies in the can. Fighting, with Channing Tatum, was released last month. Pandorum, with co-star Dennis Quaid, is due Sept. 4. Video game adaptation Tekken is undergoing final touches. True Legend, with legendary fight coordinator Woo Ping, is in production.
Between takes, he sneaks in workouts, trying to stay in shape for an eventual return to the cage.
Gabe Ruediger Returns, Leaving Past Behind
Heading into 2009, former WEC lightweight champion Gabe “Godzilla” Ruediger was on a downslide.
After a controversial stint on “The Ultimate Fighter 5,” bad tidings with his former team and a neck injury forced him on a rollercoaster ride of wins and losses.
Chuck Liddell: War on retirement ‘blown way out of proportion’
“It’s like if you’re a kid and your parents don’t get along. They both called me up and talked to me, and they both love me and have my best interests at heart. I love both guys, and I’m not going to take sides. They’ve never liked each other. But they’ve always kept it quiet out of respect for me. Now that it’s going back and forth, it’s been blown way out of proportion.”
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell is uncomfortable with the public feud that he erupted between his longtime trainer, John Hackleman, and his boss and good friend, UFC President Dana White, over his retirement. White feels the “Iceman” — who has suffered three knockouts in his past five fights — “is past his prime, doesn’t need the money, and there is no purpose in risking permanent injuries.” Hackleman feels Liddell should be able to make up his own mind. Perhaps the only thing that will end this saga is a decision from Liddell, which is apparently still in the works.