In this edition of Nippon Weekly, Japanese fighters are preparing for an April 9 Strikeforce event in Tokyo despite reports that the fights will be taking place in America, further scandal in the world of Sumo drowns out UFC 126 hype, Pancrase gets its "Impressive Tour" under way with one of its strongest cards in recent times, Shinya Aoki, Masakazu Imanari and others showcase their wares in Deep and Bob Sapp is wrestling while Kimbo Slice is not.
Japanese fighters preparing for Strikeforce April 10 event in Japan.
Although MMARising.com reported Friday that Strikeforce is no longer planning to hold their April event in Japan, MMAFighting.com has learned that several top Japanese fighters are already preparing for bouts with the intention of fighting in Japan.
Japanese fighters have been told that the event will be taking place at midday local time on April 9 so that it can be aired in the United States on April 10 in prime time.
Scott Coker and Real Entertainment representative and former Vice President of Pride FC Sotaro Shinoda went into discussions following Strikeforce: Diaz vs Cyborg earlier this month, with Loretta Hunt reporting that a Japanese event was "highly likely" and Josh Gross saying that a Japanese venue had been found.
While we are on the topic of major Japanese events, it is worth nothing that FEG President Sadaharu Tanikawa wrote this week on Twitter that "the tide had turned," and that he will "will blow away the bad rumors and do something huge!"
Sumo scandal drowns out UFC 126 hype.
Despite having one of Japanese MMA's biggest stars in Norifumi "KID" Yamamoto on the card at UFC 126, more scandal in the world of sumo has overshadowed Yamamoto's UFC debut in Japan.
Police reportedly found text messages on confiscated cell phones that implicated as many as fourteen sumo wrestlers and stablemasters in match-fixing. Japanese broadcaster NHK reports that wrestlers were buying wins for as much as 500,000 yen (over $6,000) and that matches had even been choreographed.
Former Pride FC and current K-1 World GP broadcaster Fuji TV immediately reacted to the news by pulling the plug on the Feb. 6th Tokyo sumo tournament and NHK also canceled the programming of a charity sumo event.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan even weighed in on the issue, calling the allegations, "a very serious betrayal of the people," during a parliamentary session on Thursday.
The news has dominated the headlines locally and further tarnishes the credibility of the struggling sport as it attempts to recover from exposed yakuza (Japanese mafia) ties, public brawls, the forced retirement of its top athlete and further match-fixing allegations throughout the 2000's.
Weekend preview : Pancrase crowns up for grabs, the return of Kinniku Mantaro, champs make an appearance at Deep in Shizuoka.
At Dynamite 2008, FEG officially "jumped the shark". They had made many attempts in the past (usually with bouts involving Akebono), but on December 3, 2008, they official had Fonzie on water skis.
A young and promising prospect called Akihito Tanaka dressed up as Kinniku Mantaro, the 59th prince of Planet Muscle (yes, I insist on using his full title), and fought Bob "The Beast" Sapp in a bout promoted by DJ Ozma featuring Yudetamago.
As one would expect the bout was originally intended to be a work, with Bob Sapp to be "knocked out" in the first round. Tanaka's punches on the ground were so weak though that Sapp found himself unable to throw the match and then the masked fighter made the grave mistake of eye gouging Sapp. The foul obviously angered Sapp and so the fight turned out to be more real than originally anticipated. If you are into masochism, here's the video.
Over two years later and free of gimmicks (although the embarrassment still lingers), Tanaka is now sponsored by Sengoku promoter World Victory Road and ready to make his return at Pancrase Impressive Tour 1 on Sunday. Despite his atrocious debut, Tanaka could actually turn out to be a fighter worth watching as he has won seven consecutive All-Japan wrestling championships at heavyweight and spent the last few years working with Kazushi Sakuraba first and then at the Sengoku Official Dojo.
Tanaka will be dropping to light heavyweight for his second MMA bout and facing the heavy-handed Yuhei Fukuda (3-1). I hope for Tanaka's sake that this bout is less cringe-worthy.
Also on Pancrase's first effort for the year: Kengo Ura defends his welterweight crown against Sakuraba pupil Taknori Sato, Masahiro Toryu will look for yet another high kick knockout against Grabaka's Eiji Ishikawa, Yuki Kondo continues his descent down the weight divisions as he fights at welterweight against journeyman Hiroki Nagaoka, "Saint" Seiya Kawahara makes his long awaited return from injury against Takumi Murata and rising featherweight Tomonari Kanomata faces off with Tomoyuki Miyaji.
The bouts above barely scratch the surface though as the card is stacked from top to bottom. Definitely a strong start to the year for Pancrase.
Deep boss Shigeru Saeki has been pessimistic this week about the financial future of his promotion following the last minute cancellation of their January Macau event, but he has something to look forward to this Sunday at Deep Shizuoka Impact 2011.
Shizuoka, just over 100 miles south of Tokyo, will be treated to exhibition bouts featuring DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki, Deep featherweight champion Koichiro Matsumoto, former Deep middleweight champion Ryo Chonan, Deep bantamweight champion Masakazu Imanari and former featherweight King of Pancrase Yoshiro Maeda.
And just because I will use any opportunity I get to link to this video, here is another Deep exhibition bout featuring the aforementioned Imanari and Shigeru Saeki.
Satoshi Ishii training for March 5 Strikeforce .
Japanese outlet Sports Nippon (popularly known as Sponichi) reported Friday that 24-year-old Beijing judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii is set to make his Strikeforce debut and light heavyweight debut on March 5 in Columbus, Ohio. Ishii was apparently planned for the Feb. 12 Strikeforce event but visa issues and the lack of a suitable opponent pushed the fight back.
Sponichi also confirmed the Strikeforce's intentions to hold a Japanese event on April 10. Despite the fact that Ishii has fallen out of favor with the Japanese public he is still a rating draw and would be a big plus for any Japanese event. Unfortunately for the American promotion, Ishii is participating in a triathlon on April 17 and is therefor unable to fight at Strikeforce's Japanese event.
Bob Sapp bites back at FEG with pro-wrestling promo. Kimbo not wresling?
Wow, I'm writing a lot on Bob Sapp recently.
It's been over a month since a last-minute contract dispute between Bob Sapp and FEG resulted in Sapp not fighting at Dynamite, but the war of words rages on.
After being branded by FEG President Sadaharu Tanikawa a "worthless loser" and a "hairless prick", Sapp has hit back in the form of a YouTube trailer for pro-wrestling promotion Dramatic Dream Team. I could try explaining what happens in the video but it is mostly nonsensical. Just watch it.
Sapp is due to wrestle for DDT on July 24 at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo and is also supposed to wrestle this Saturday in Antonio Inoki's IGF down in Fukuoka.
Sapp squares off with the man he was supposed to face at Dynamite, Shinichi Suzukawa, in place of Kimbo Slice who apparently suffered an injury in training on Feb. 2. I'm not entirely sure I believe that. Josh Barnett and Bobby Lashley will also be wrestling.
Note: For Norifumi "KID" Yamamoto's real name and pictures of Kazuyuki Miyata's birthday cake, Daisuke Nakamura's wedding and Mitsuhiro Ishida dressed as devil, follow me on Twitter at @DanHerbertson.