Yoshihiro Akiyama to Drop to Welterweight, Wants to Be GSP's 'Apprentice'

After three consecutive losses as a middleweight, Japanese UFC judoka Yoshihiro Akiyama is finally moving to welterweight.

Akiyama, who is 1-3 in the UFC and 14-4 with two no contests overall, considered retirement after getting knocked out by Vitor Belfort last month, but now instead intends to drop down 15 lbs and ideally seek the guidance of divisional king Georges St. Pierre.

Speaking to Japanese outlet Sponichi, the 2006 K-1 Heros Light Heavyweight GP champ also stated he would like to debut as a welterweight at the UFC's return to Japan in February 2012. Before his move to the UFC, Akiyama was the biggest draw in Japan and he would certainly be an asset to any event in the East.

Due to financial problems surrounding a former manager, Akiyama was forced to close his highly regarded Cloud Dojo prior to his meeting with Belfort at UFC 133 and with his move to welterweight, Akiyama stated that he would like to make the move to the champion's gym to become St. Pierre's "apprentice".

The move to welterweight was a long time coming for Akiyama - although he has put on three "fight of the night" performances and was successful in his UFC debut against Alan Belcher, the Japanese fighter was widely considered to be too small to compete in the upper echelons at middleweight in Western promotions.

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