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.
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*
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.
Howard Davis Jr.: Chuck Liddell Should Take a Year Off, Retirement Decision Should Be His to Make
American Top Team boxing coach and Olympic gold medalist Howard Davis Jr. spoke with me about his work with Chuck Liddell prior to his UFC 97 loss against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Contrary to what some people believe, Davis said he really did work with Liddell for about two and a half months, and while he didn’t change his style he did try to add a couple tools to Liddell’s game. Here Davis talks about what Liddell’s recent loss means for his career, and whether he thinks the former UFC champ should call it quits like Dana White is insisting he do. He also touches on the addictive “drug” of being a world champion fighter, and why he thinks Liddell has seemed more vulnerable in recent bouts – and it’s not because he’s getting old.
Sport vs. Spectacle
In 1870, Jem Mace and Joe Coburn were tossed into competition with each other to decide the world’s bare-knuckle boxing champion -- a sport that played host to some horrific injuries. (Death, for example.)
Mace and Coburn contested the title for an astounding three hours and 45 minutes.
Neither man landed a single blow.
Not long after, someone made an attempt on Mace’s life.
To say it was someone who bought a ticket to that fight is perhaps not unreasonable.
Jon Jones: "Following his Destiny" (interview)
At 22 years of age, Jon "Bones" Jones has quickly become a rising young star to look out for in the UFC's light heavyweight division. With two wins under the organization's banner—including an impressive decision victory over TUF season one finalist Stephan Bonnar—he’s already making waves in one of the most stacked divisions in the entire sport. Jon sat down with me to discuss his past, his upcoming bout with Jake O'brien at UFC 100, and his plans for the future.
The full article is
Great interview! I had no idea he was only 22, definitely has a bright future in the sport IMO.
Dan Henderson, Cung Le, ‘Shogun’ Rua, Matt Serra Join Round 5 for Expanded ‘Series 4' Release
Four of the most popular and accomplished champions in mixed martial arts, Dan Henderson, Cung Le, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Matt Serra, have partnered with Round 5, the leading producer of MMA collectibles, to create figurines that will be included in an expanded Series 4, it was announced today by Barron Lau, Round 5 CEO and co-founder and Damon Lau, president and co-founder. The series, scheduled to be available at retail in July in time for UFC 100, will include the four plus fellow superstars Fedor Emelianenko and Gina Carano. McCarthy, Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira, will be in stores across North America and at online outlets including www.Round5MMA.com in late May, about a month behind its original schedule.
“With six figurines, Series 4 will be our largest issuance to date,” said Damon Lau. “Adding four more of the biggest names in the sport – with wide fan bases – to what began as an already stacked set is huge for Round 5 and a great opportunity for fans to quickly add to their collections.”
To date, Round 5 has issued two Series of four athletes each: Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Tito Ortiz comprised Series 1 while Rich Franklin, Sean Sherk, Anderson Silva and Wanderlei Silva were released in Series 2. Series 3 had been planned for an April release, but has been delayed by about four weeks.
“The Series 3 prototypes have been completed and are currently in production,” said Lau. “It took a little longer than we had originally anticipated, but we feel that the finished product is well worth the extra wait.”
Henderson, the last man to hold the welterweight and middleweight titles for PRIDE, has a 24-7-0 career MMA record, competing against many of the best in MMA. “Hollywood” defeated Wanderlei Silva to take his final PRIDE crown, then rejoined the UFC, where he has won his last two bouts. He leads Team USA in Season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter television program and will fight fellow coach Michael Bisping at UFC 100 on July 11 in Las Vegas.
Though he has competed for years in the Chinese martial art of Sanshou, the South Vietnamese native Le gained fame in North America by defeating legendary Frank Shamrock via TKO last year in San Jose, Calif., where he trains. Le is unbeaten (6-0) in his MMA career and has begun a career in acting, with several feature films nearing international release.
The Brazilian star Rua, known the world over as “Shogun,” boasts and 18-3 record, last week recording a first-round knockout over Chuck Liddell at UFC 97. He is a former PRIDE champion, winning the Grand Prix title in 2005 with wins over Quinton Jackson, Rogerio Minotoro Nogueira and Ricardo Arona.
Serra, a Long Island, N.Y., native, has compiled a 9-5 MMA mark, earning international acclaim following his first-round TKO of Georges St. Pierre in their first meeting in 2007 for the UFC welterweight championship. St. Pierre won the rematch last year, and Serra is next scheduled to battle Matt Hughes at UFC 98 in May. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master, Serra also gained fame as the winner of Season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter.
GSP Announces Fan Logo Design Contest
Georges St-Pierre is rapidly becoming an international icon – not only is he one of the strongest, toughest, and most energizing athletes to grace the MMA Octagon, he is also a class act outside of it. Now Georges wants to take his brand to the same level that his athletic performance has taken him. To accomplish this task, he’s engaging those that who will help him achieve that goal – his fans. “Georges has some of the greatest fans in the sport”, said Shari Spencer, Georges’ manager. “This contest represents his desire to give something back to his fans – to allow them to participate in his efforts to represent this sport on a whole new level.” The winning logo design will be incorporated into Georges’ new website, be displayed on his shorts and banner within the Octagon during his fights, and be incorporated into a new line of merchandise to be debuted in conjunction with UFC 100 on July 11th.
Here is your chance to show GSP your skills and help him develop a logo that represents GSP in your eyes! Take some time to draw, paint, or even sketch your ideas – then go to GSPfightclub.com and send him your ideas. GSP will narrow the choices down to ten (10) finalists. Then, just as GSP draws upon his fans’ support to win his fights, he’ll turn to his fans to help him pick the winning logo design. Your design just might be chosen as the lucky winner that he’ll wear during his upcoming fight at UFC 100! But you better hurry – this contest is only open for a short time. For full contest details, check out .