By Zach Arnold | April 20, 2011
The Japan Times reported yesterday that the former Japanese Olympic judoka gold medalist Satoshi Ishii had suddenly made a U-turn in his professional career. He was scheduled to fight on, of all shows, the Strikeforce April 1st event against Scott Lighty before that fight got canceled. The world turned upside-down when Zuffa brought out the Strikeforce assets and Ishii ended up filing for divorce after nine months of marriage. Then, he was supposed to fight on a future Strikeforce Challengers card. That vanished after reported visa issues. Left with no real Japanese bookings on the table, Ishii has reportedly called it quits (for now) on his MMA career.
New Japanese reports this morning claim that he decided on Monday to enter into the upcoming 2011 USA Judo Senior National Championships event in Orlando on the 29th. His goal is to obtain American citizenship and make a run at the 2016 Rio Olympic games as a representative of the United States. Mr. Ishii has been living in Los Angeles since last July.
The career shift puts an end to what was one of the most heavily mismanaged prospects ever to hit the Mixed Martial Arts scene. He had all the tools and the power base to make it work. He may have came at the wrong time (with a dying Japanese MMA scene), but he still had lots of potential for high-profile television matches and commercial work. He was even aligned with the Antonio Inoki political machine to get things done. However, in the end, he was largely a colossal dud. He hated taking a punch and that’s not a good thing if you’re fighting in this sport. He also has a very mercurial personality and few fans could relate to his life story or his demeanor. He came off as aloof, goofy, and at times insulting — so much so that fans booed him and cheered Jerome Le Banner on New Year’s Eve 2010.
It’s easy to say that his career was mismanaged, but the larger truth is that you can only control someone to a certain extent. It’s clear, so far, that Ishii makes rash decisions in his life. I don’t know if impulsive is the right word, but undisciplined might be a more accurate term. On paper, he has all the talent in the world. That talent was certainly alluring to K-1 and he could have been a cornerstone for the promotion. However, he didn’t want to play the political games. He marched to the beat of his own drumt. Whatever he was doing for training, it didn’t pan out for him. Nothing clicked.
There was a lot of money on the table. However, to get that money, Ishii would have had to play by the rules and be disciplined about it. In the end, he didn’t want to be a Japanese mainstay. Furthermore, the money we thought that was on the table may have been nothing more than a mirage with K-1.
Last year, Jordan Breen discussed Satoshi Ishii’s career trajectory and praised the way both he & his handlers were going about his development as a fighter. If you read the article, I wrote a strong rebuttal stating that what we were seeing with Ishii was nothing short of a train wreck and one of the biggest busts of all time for an MMA prospect with major-league name recognition. Unfortunately, my assessment proved to be more accurate. It just wasn’t meant to be.