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« | Home | »

UFC signs Yoshihiro Akiyama

By Zach Arnold | February 25, 2009

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Update: Daily Sports reports that Akiyama will fight at 185 pounds (Middleweight). The article list two targets: Yushin Okami and Anderson Silva.

Press release here. The advance into South Korea is evident. In Japan? UFC needs infrastructure to make it happen there. South Korea’s the easier play at this point.

UFC could run a spot show in Japan, certainly. But as WWE found out, the marketplace right now for the fight game (pro-wrestling, MMA, etc.) in Japan is really on life support. K-1 does well for their core product, but that’s it. That’s the whole ballgame. Even when the Japanese market was strong 3-4 years ago, it was nearly impossible for a foreigner to jump into the scene there. Now with a weak market and the same politics, it’s nearly impossible for a long-term play there. South Korea’s the real market at stake here for UFC.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 34 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

34 Responses to “UFC signs Yoshihiro Akiyama”

  1. ttt says:

    how much will he be paid?

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    This is big. Really big.

  3. BM2 says:

    Oh, how I love to hate SATAN MICHAEL JACKSON Akiyama. He is booking gold – the only problem is that I don’t think there are many top face personalities that can be booked nicely against him in the UFC. Outside of the UFC, I would have dearly loved to see Minowaman vs Akiyama.

    Oh well. My new dream match is Couture vs Akiyama. CAPTAIN AMERICA VS SATAN. YOU KNOW YOU WOULD WATCH

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    You are forgetting about the most logic fight in MMA history:

    Georges St Pierre vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama…. To determine the World Turkish Wrestling Champion (all oiled up of course).

    When Zuffa can go overseas and pick up talent like this, it really shows not only how good the organization it… It also shows how the fighters themselves all across the world are viewing the sport differently. Before Cro Cop came over to the UFC, this type of action would have been shocking.

  5. doem says:

    ^^^
    I do not think so. Fighters still want to go where the money is, they see that the market in the US is much more stable, has more exposure, and is potentially very profitable. Cro-cop i think saw the writing on the wall long before a lot of other people (meaning the collapse of Big MMA in Japan). Even Barnett is fighting in the states now he has always said that he is going to go where the money is.

  6. David says:

    Dong and Akiyama… when I read the news of this signing, I was shocked! I am happy and great reporting Zach!

  7. samscaff says:

    45, what a hugger.

    The reason Crocop came over and why anyone else for that matter came over was because UFC is now the top dog–FINANCIALLY. Its not because of how “good” the organization is, or because anyone is viewing the sport any differently.

    You need to read a history book (fightopinion.com) about why and how the UFC came to be the #1 organization in the world. While they did a good job of building up the sport in the USA, via SpikeTV, the Pride collapse was dumb luck and basically just fell in their lap. UFC bought up alot of the pride fighters (either literally or by the fact that they straight bought their former employer). Crocop was the first guy to realize that UFC was the new place to be…and others followed for similar reasons, but dont get it twisted why that happened.

    The fighters are not viewing the sport differently. How is Crocop going to Japan any different than Crocop going to america? Yes, Akiyama coming to UFC would have been shocking before Crocop came to UFC, but that has nothing to do with how fighters view the sport.

  8. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    I think Akiyama is overrated in the polls, but he’s still a master level fighter, and it’s nice to see that UFC is able to compete for that type of talent on the international market.

    Does he intend to continue fighting at Middleweight, or is it possible that he will move down to Welterweight?

  9. doem says:

    i also feel he is a little overrated. I would be a little surprised to see him as contender in whatever weight class he ends up in

  10. Jonathan says:

    This is awesome news and I am very excited!

  11. Zach Arnold says:

    Does he intend to continue fighting at Middleweight, or is it possible that he will move down to Welterweight?

    I would be shocked if he could make the cut to 170. He’s really a 185-er and I don’t see him going down.

  12. IceMuncher says:

    If you told me a well-known fighter was going to get signed by the UFC, Akiyama would have been one of the last ones that I’d have guessed. I know he’s considered a heel, but I thought he was one of the biggest draws (fwiw) in Japanese MMA.

  13. Alan Conceicao says:

    I’m not terribly surprised. He had already announced that he didn’t want to stay with K-1 and Sengoku probably lacked the big bucks for him. Only leaves one party. As for this being unequivocal proof that they are going to run Japan or South Korea, well, we’ve heard lots of promises over the years and until Zuffa delivers I’ll be somewhat skeptical. Certainly the acquisition of Akiyama isn’t bigger than the acquisition of PRIDE with regards to any potential attempt to enter Japan, and look how that ended.

  14. urbanraida says:

    Be interesting to see how he does under Joe Silva’s Sink Or Swim type booking as compared to FEG’s more protective way of matching him.

  15. 45 Huddle says:

    I am aware of the Tory of MMA. And of course Cro Cop came over for the money. But three years ago, a guy like Caol Uno would have never come back to the UFC. Remember, his first stint in the UFC was really before the MMA boom in Japan. And I highly doubt he is getting paid more fighting in the US between fighter purses and sponsorships. There is something bigger then money here. In fact there is a large divide that many of the fans just aren’t seeing. There is the sport of MMA which is primarily Zuffa. Then there is the entertainment, which seems to be nearly everything else, including DREAM, Sengoku, & Affliction.

    On a side note, I am not saying that entertainment isn’t factored into Zuffa. It is. See lesnar as an example. But overall, it is much more of a sport, which is evident by how even the Japanese fighters are switching from larger paydays in their home country, to a sporting event type.

  16. Alan Conceicao says:

    But three years ago, a guy like Caol Uno would have never come back to the UFC. Remember, his first stint in the UFC was really before the MMA boom in Japan.

    Three years ago, Uno wouldn’t have come back to the UFC because there was only the slightest pretense of a lightweight division. How quickly we forget. As for his stint in the UFC being before the MMA boom, that’s preposterous. He was there from 2001-2003, a period of time spanning PRIDE 13 to a couple weeks before the debut of Bushido.

  17. Alan Conceicao says:

    Be interesting to see how he does under Joe Silva’s Sink Or Swim type booking as compared to FEG’s more protective way of matching him.

    They have some weak guys to potentially feed him that would be safe, but I think overall anyone in the top 20 is a very dangerous fight for him. I like watching Akiyama plenty but I think he’s probably 50/50 beating Alan Belcher.

  18. 45 Huddle says:

    Pride was only big guys back then. He had no option but to transition from Shooto to the UFC.

    And Uno was just an example. There is Ishii. There is Akiyama. There is Yoshiyuki Yoshida. And not to mention all the other Cage Force guys who not only compete in a cage to emulate the UFC, but also as an unofficial feeder system to the UFC and WEC.

    These fighters aren’t looking for the next DREAM or Sengoku Grand Prix. They want into the UFC/WEC.

    That is a major difference in trends.

  19. Alan Conceicao says:

    Pride was only big guys back then.

    In 2001, yes. Within months of his return, he was given options in PRIDE and K-1.

    And Uno was just an example. There is Ishii. There is Akiyama. There is Yoshiyuki Yoshida. And not to mention all the other Cage Force guys who not only compete in a cage to emulate the UFC, but also as an unofficial feeder system to the UFC and WEC.

    Ishii hasn’t actually signed to fight for the UFC yet. Yoshiyuki Yoshida as big star is kinda comical, since no one in Japan cares about Cage Force. I mean they have had some decent fights, but they’re no different in their place for worldwide MMA than DEEP or ZST or something. I’d say the guys in it would be pretty happy to get anywhere that is bigger than that, given how most of the solid tournament fighters that weren’t picked up by the UFC have gladly collected paychecks in DREAM and Sengoku.

  20. 45 Huddle says:

    I’m not just speaking about big stars.

    I’m talking about this shift in the sport. Whether or not Ishii has signed, isn’t a huge deal. The mere fact that he publicly thought about it is an amazing change in the sport.

    An entire smaller organization in Japan is grooming fighters for a foreign company. Whether or not DREAM picks up some of their fighters isn’t a big issue. The point is that they have tournaments SPEFICIALLY designed get fighters in Zuffa.

    It’s pretty obvious that the Japanese fighters are seeing the change, and where they end up is showcasing that.

  21. doem says:

    well you would hope that they saw the change wouldnt you?

    lets see, 800,000 PPV in the US or collapsing MMA market in Japam. MMmmmm, where do i want to fight?

  22. Grape Knee High says:

    I’m excited that the UFC signed Akiyama, but I have my doubts that he’ll be anything more than a TV draw for the Asian market.

    He’s an exciting fighter, but he has a hard road ahead of him unless they only feed him cans. These are the unknowns/questions in my mind:

    1) I think he’s a bit undersized for 185. He’s ideally suited for 170 against Western weightcutters.

    2) I personally wonder whether he is completely natural.

    3) We don’t know if his gas tank is good enough.

    4) Stylistically, he’s never really been challenged with elite grappling. We know he’s good at judo, but how is wrestling? How is his submission defense?

  23. Alan Conceicao says:

    An entire smaller organization in Japan is grooming fighters for a foreign company.

    They’re a b-show. It doesn’t really matter who they’re grooming fighters for because they are generally insignificant. The first Cage Force tourney *was* significant because it included a large number of international competitors as a result of a deal struck between other smaller promoters in the world. Its much tougher to look at the promotion right at this moment some 12 months later and say that its a healthy indicator of the UFC’s influence in Japan, however, given its place well behind Pancrase, Shooto, DEEP, etc.

  24. Wolverine says:

    Bowles out, Takeya Mizugaki in to fight Torres at WEC 40

  25. Hey Zach, think Dana will make a run at the guy he referred to as Long Duck Dong for the Korean market?

    hoping they will be able to work some kind of deal for Misaki so we can see Akiyama- Misaki 2

  26. 45 Huddle says:

    Another Top 10 fighter added to the WEC.

    Just amazing how good that organization is getting.

  27. Alan Conceicao says:

    Well, if they’re gonna keep scrapping divisions from it, they’re gonna have to keep making fights with someone. Apparently it will be no name guys from Japan. Hey, no complaints here. Much easier to watch a full fight from the WEC than from Cage Force or Shooto with their clipped up shows.

  28. rainrider says:

    Does Kiyohara come with the deal?

  29. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    Mizugaki actually is a top 10 in my book (number 9 to be precise). That gives WEC 5/10 bantamweights (and 11-13, who are virtually the same talentwise as 5-10). If I were in charge, I’d be targeting Ueda and Oshiro next, the other synthetic top 10 guys are really not tested against other top talent, they just have a lot of fights.

  30. 45 Huddle says:

    It’s obvious why a card like WEC 40 is not going to be on PPV. However, from a pure talent stand point, the main card is much better then UFC 96 which is coming up soon. It’s great to have that type of talent free on TV.

  31. IceMuncher says:

    “Hey Zach, think Dana will make a run at the guy he referred to as Long Duck Dong for the Korean market?”

    He can’t make 265, and I don’t think the UFC would want him anyway.

  32. 45 Huddle says:

    Akiyama is making between $800,000 to $1.2 Million a fight, according to Sankei Sports (Reported on Bloody Elbow).

  33. Alan Conceicao says:

    It says that if he “makes it in the UFC” he’ll earn that sum, not that he is starting with that.

  34. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    Akiyama will never hold a UFC belt, so it was a safe contract.

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