Nippon Weekly: Aoki Thinking of Calling it Quits, Sakuraba's Ear, Sandro's Hand

From rabbit costumes to reattached ears, every week in "Nippon Weekly," I will give you the low down on what's happening on the other side of the Pacific.

In the inaugural edition of Nippon Weekly: Shinya Aoki ponders quitting MMA, Kazushi Sakuraba's ear is back on his head, Marlon Sandro shows off his ballooned hands, more Japanese fighters look to the West and Deep starts with a disaster while Pancrase begins "Impressively."

Shinya Aoki Contemplating Quitting MMA?
Sources close to Shinya Aoki have indicated that the DREAM lightweight champion was contemplating retirement following his humiliating knockout loss to Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima at Dynamite!!

Aoki has clearly been troubled following the loss, going so far as to delete his @waoki Twitter account (although it appears that Aoki has started a new private account under the alias @jyotaronawo) after being harassed by Nagashima fans and has privately expressed an interest in quitting MMA to focus on his teaching duties at the Deep official gym.

Despite Aoki's apparent depression, if I were a betting man, I'd wager that we would see a return of the Baka Survivor in 2011. FEG are currently undergoing restructuring and planning and we should know more about the future of the promoter and lightweight ace by the end of January.

Video: "Jienotsu" Nagashima backstage after knocking out Aoki at Dynamite.
Bonus: Alistair Overeem and Todd Duffee talk backstage post-fight.

Kazushi Sakuraba's Ear Successfully Reattached
Kazushi Sakuraba's Laughter 7 Facebook page has revealed (photo) that the Japanese legend's ear is safely back on his head after a four-hour surgery.

DREAM event producer Keiichi Sasahara commented on the injury at the Dynamite!! post-fight press conference, "The lump of cauliflower was slightly torn so they had to stitch it back on. As it is full of veins it was a complicated operation. He should recover in just a few days. He is very frustrated with the injury though as he was in great condition and cut weight very well."

Esther Lin recently published a photo showing Sakuraba's ear getting torn during a takedown attempt on the DREAM welterweight champion Marius Zaromskis. Be warned, it is not pretty.

Marlon Sandro Not 100 Percent for Sengoku: Soul of Fight?
Former Sengoku featherweight champion Marlon Sandro has recently posted photos (photo 1,2) of a badly swollen right hand on Facebook, claiming that he had an infection three days prior to leaving for Japan.

Sandro lost his title in his first defense to Shooto champion Hatsu Hioki on Dec. 30th in what was considered by many to be a late fight of the year candidate.

Rambaa "M-16" Sombet vs. Junji Ito Booked for March 12 Shooto
The top 115-pound fighter in the world, Rambaa "M-16" Sombet (seen here wearing rabbit ears), will return to action on March 12 at Shooto: Shootor's Legacy 2 when he squares off with Shooting gym Yokohama's Junji Ito.

Sombet was sidelined for most of 2010 with visa issues but with the signatures of Shooto fans, the Thai national was granted a visa and he is free to defend his belt against the hard-hitting Ito who is riding a five fight win streak.

Shootor's Legacy 2 will also see the 2009 and 2010 Shooto rookie champions back in action as Yusuke Yachi, Yuta "Uruka" Sasaki, Kyoji Horiguchi, and Kosuke "Rambo" Suzuki will face yet-to-be-named opponents.

More Japanese Fighters Heading West?
Sengoku veteran Eiji Mitsuoka (16-7-2) has revealed on his blog that he has signed with power manager Shu Hirata. Hirata has been the agent responsible for bringing fighters such as Takeya Mizugaki and Yoshiyuki Yoshida to foreign soil and Mitsuoka, who has is one of Japan's most experienced cage fighters, will no doubt be looking to return to America for the first time in 10 years.

Top DREAM featherweight Kazuyuki Miyata is also publicly considering fighting on American soil if a fight with recently crowned DREAM featherweight champ Hiroyuki Takaya is not made in the near future. With his fellow featherweights Michihiro Omigawa and Norifumi "KID" Yamamoto recently signing with the UFC, Miyata feels he has only one or two more interesting fights in DREAM and the inactivity of Strikeforce's featherweight division has him considering leaving the leading Japanese promotion.

Deep Attempt to Recover After Horrible Start to 2011
Regional promotion Deep got off on the wrong foot in 2011 as their first attempt to promote on foreign soil was aborted only three days prior to the event. Deep boss Shigeru Saeki dubbed the Deep Macau event "postponed" due to financial issues and the fact that Megaton champion Yusuke Kawaguchi was forced off the card due to injury. According to Saeki, cancellation of the event was important for the continuation of the promotion and they are under significant financial duress.

The promotion attempted to bounce back on Wednesday though as it announced Deep 52 (the renumbered Macau event) for Feb. 25 as well as three smaller events in Tokyo, Nagoya and Shizuoka all for February.

Yusuke Kawaguchi has relinquished his Megaton belt due to the undisclosed injury and Kazuhisa Tazawa will instead face Yuji Sakuragi. Also on the Deep 52, former Lightweight King Of Pancrase Shoji Maruyama will take on Tomoya Kato, GRABAKA's Takeshi Yamasaki will return from injury against the undefeated Katsunori Tsuda and Yuya Shirai and Ryuta Sakurai will also be on the card against yet-to-be-named opponents.

Pancrase Plan 2011 "Impressive" Tour With Return of Kinniku Mantoro!
Akihito Tanaka aka Kinniku Mantaro, the 59th prince of Planet Muscle, will finally return to the ring on February 6 to face Yuhei Fukuda at the first installment of Pancrase's "Impressive" Tour.

Best known to MMA fans for being the comic book character that Bob Sapp knocked out at Dynamite!! 2008, Tanaka is actually one of the best heavyweight wrestlers in Japan and has won seven consecutive All-Japan wrestling championships. In summer 2010, Tanaka was signed into Sengoku's "Training Player" program that currently supports fighters such as Maximo Blanco and Shigeki Osawa and the bout in Pancrase will be the first bout under the new contract.

Also on the card, welterweight King of Pancrase Kengo "Uraken" Ura will defend his crown against Sakuraba pupil Takenori Sato, No. 1-ranked Pancrase featherweight and one-time Marlon Sandro victim Tomonari Kanomata will attempt to back up his dominance of the retiring Kenji Arai against Motoshi Miyaji and host of excellent bouts will take place in the bantamweight and welterweight divisions.

Definitely an "impressive" start to the year for one of the oldest promotions in the business.

Fan Voting Open for 2010 K-1 Awards
K-1 promoter Fighting Entertainment Group has opened the voting for its 2010 K-1 awards. Fans can vote for the MVPs and best bouts of 2010 in all three K-1 divisions.

Note: For up to the minute updates on what ramen Michihiro Omigawa is eating or how Megumi Fujii's cats are doing, follow me on twitter at @DanHerbertson.

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