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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Blog: Gomi says 'Hi, Dana!'
Monday, 5:00 p.m. ET: In shape and focused for the first time in a while, the Takanori Gomi of old returned to us on Sunday evening's Shooto Tradition Final card, where he knocked out Shooto 154-pound world champion Takashi Nakakura late in the second round.
After the event, Sherdog.com was able to catch up with an ecstatic and jovial “Fireball Kid” to talk about his immediate feelings on the bout, as well as his next step in the sport.
UFC fighter Houston Alexander rescues child left in car
UFC light heavyweight Houston Alexander is used to knocking out opponents inside the Octagon. On Wednesday, May 6, “The Assassin” did his part to help knock out child neglect.
According to WOWT.com, Alexander discovered a child left alone and crying inside an unlocked Chevy Lumina in a parking lot near his hometown of Ohama, Nebraska, and stayed with the girl until she was safe.
After searching local businesses for her family, the child’s mother was found at a local plasma center giving blood, accompanied by a cousin who was supposedly left in charge of watching the girl.
Following back surgery, Goran Reljic takes up light training for UFC return
Goran Reljic's UFC debut couldn't have gone much better.
Pushing his professional career record to 8-0, the 25-year-old Croatian defeated Wilson Gouveia via second-round TKO and earned a $75,000 Fight of the Night bonus for his efforts.
Reljic (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) hasn't fought since that UFC 84 main-card bout a year ago, but his manager told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) the middleweight recently recommenced light training and hopes to return to the UFC later this year.
Reljic had been slated to make his second UFC appearance in October at UFC 90. However, a back injury forced him out of his scheduled bout with Thales Leites just two weeks before the Chicago event.
"Since then we had been trying different (forms of) rehabilitation to solve his back problems," Relic's manager, Zoran Saric, said. "Three months ago, doctors in Croatia decided to do lower back/disc surgery. Everything went well, and Goran started light training for a month."
With Silva Partnership, Franklin Likely At 205 For Good
It's safe to say that, after his upcoming catch weight fight at 195, Rich Franklin is not going to fight any more Silvas at Middleweight or anybody else for that matter. His recent partnership with current UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva means that, in his words, "Ace" is likely staying permanently at Light Heavyweight after he faces Wanderlei Silva at UFC 99.
Rashad Evans: Lyoto Machida is better than Rampage Jackson; Interested in Anderson Silva fight
“I thought Lyoto was more deserving than Rampage anyway. He’s better … actually, I like Rampage a lot. I think he’s really funny and charismatic. But I still want to beat his ass some day…. [My goal is to] get Anderson Silva’s record for the most consecutive wins in the UFC, with nine, keep the belt and then break that record…. I’d love to fight Anderson Silva.”
UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans — who has eight wins in nine attempts inside the Octagon (the “other” fight was a draw against Tito Ortiz — has no qualms defending his 205-pound title for the first time against Lyoto Machida at UFC 98 on May 23, because as he puts it, the undefeated Brazilian is more deserving. “Sugar” was expected to defend his belt against former division champion, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, however, he had to turn down the bout because of nagging injuries. He is expected to take on the winner of Evans-Machida later in 2009, which would no doubt be a blockbuster pay-per-view (PPV) event … especially if Evans can come out on top. And if Machida and possibly Jackson were not enough to handle, Evans also has middleweight champion Anderson Silva — who also competes at light heavyweight — in his cross hairs. Talk about a tough road ahead … can he pull it off?
Randy Can Relate, Supports Chuck's Decision
There are a number of options for Chuck Liddell’s future, and former opponent Randy Couture supports all of them.
Couture told MMAWeekly.com he empathized with Liddell’s situation – the former light heavyweight champ is currently stuck in the middle in a war of words between coach John Hackleman and UFC president Dana White – though he hadn’t spoken to him personally in recent weeks.
Having been asked questions about retirement for much of his career, Couture can understand Liddell’s struggle.