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Mizuto Hirota Finally Ready to Return Twenty Months After Shocking Injury

On December 31, 2009, Mizuto Hirota got his arm wrenched behind his back by possibly the most ruthless man in MMA: DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki.

Hirota, who was then the Sengoku lightweight champion and had engaged in a war of words with Aoki prior to the bout, refused to tap and so Aoki wrenched the arm further and further until Hirota's body shook and a sickening snap was heard through Saitama Super Arena as referee Yuji Shimada proceeded to dive in and covered his mouth in shock.

With Hirota lying stunned on the canvas and his arm destroyed, Shinya Aoki stood over his defeated opponent while sticking his tongue out and extending his middle finger before excitedly running around the ring and flipping off the audience. Not yet finished, Aoki then laughed at Hirota and mocked his broken arm before proudly naming the submission after his boss, dubbing it the "Keiichi Sasahara 2010."

Hirota obviously should have tapped, but Aoki's performance at Dynamite!! 2009 was one of the lowest points in the history of Japanese MMA. At Deep 55 on August 26, twenty months after getting his arm snapped, Hirota will finally be ready to return.

"Who is the [Sengoku] champion now? Because I don't know. I didn't say I wanted to fight him, and no one knows who he is."

Aoki's ignorance regarding his opponent for Dynamite 2009 was feigned. He definitely knew who Mizuto Hirota was.

On August 2, 2009 at Sengoku 9, the mohawked striker had stolen the Sengoku lightweight belt from Satoru Kitaoka, one of Aoki's best friends and main training partner. Kitaoka and Hirota had also exchanged words prior to their meeting but during that bout, Hirota easily defended submission attempts from the grappler and beat Kitaoka until he literally vomited blood in the ring (pictured, right).

Hirota responded to Aoki's feigned ignorance and obvious aggression as any insulted fighter would, saying that he wanted to beat Aoki so bad that he goes home to his parents and quits fighting.

Dynamite 2009 marked the first cross promotion between the two leading Japanese promotions, DREAM and Sengoku, and so the fans and the media watched with excitement. The hostility between the rival champions was genuine and it was continuing to escalate.

Although Aoki was the strong favorite going into the bout, the atmosphere at Saitama Super Arena was electric with 45,000 fans waiting in anticipation to see this dispute reach it's climax.

Unfortunately, it was not until after the bout on December 31, 2009 that hostilities climaxed, and after a whole lot of middle fingers and one badly fractured humerus, the MMA world was disgusted and shocked.

Sengoku officials were rightly outraged at the way their champion was humiliated and asked for Aoki to be punished for his post-fight behavior, which they referred to as "unforgivable conduct."

DREAM were certainly not going to voluntarily suspend their biggest star though and so the promotion simply condemned Aoki's post-fight celebrations, saying that their champion's actions were "rude" while Aoki himself gave a classic non-apology by saying, "After my fight, I was excited, and so I did something rude that I should apologize for."

Aoki continued though, detailing what if felt like to break someones arm - this time showing no sign of remorse or regret.

"When I had his arm behind his back, I could feel it popping," Aoki said. "I thought, 'Well, this guy's pride just won't let him tap, will it?' So without hesitation, I broke it. I heard it break, and I thought, 'Ah, there, I just broke it.' I was stopped afterward, but even if I hadn't been, continuing to break it more would have been fine by me."

Hirota never commented on Aoki's behavior, saying only that he felt frustrated with his performance and that, "If possible I want to fight him one more time. That fight was finished so early I don't feel like I fought."

On January 6, 2009, Hirota underwent surgery in Adachi-ku, Tokyo (performed by the same doctor who repaired Jerome Le Banner's shattered arm) and the procedure was initially thought of as a success. After two weeks in the hospital, Hirota was released and was expected to return to running by February, training by May to fight again in the summer of 2010.

Hirota's recovery did not go as planned.

Hirota left Gutsman Dojo, the gym that had seen him win an All-Japan amateur Shooto championship, Shooto welterweight rookie tournament and capture the Cage Force lightweight strap, to form a Cave Gym with fellow Sengoku veteran Taisuke Okuno and it wasn't until June that Hirota started hitting mitts. Unfortunately, this still proved to be too early as his return to training greatly worsened the injury meaning that he would be out for at least the remainder of the year.

Later that month, unsure of when he would be able to return, Hirota returned his Sengoku lightweight title.

In twenty months that Hirota was away from the ring, his vacated title was never filled, the Japanese MMA scene made a drastic turn for the worse and Sengoku has essentially ceased operations. Mizuto Hirota seemingly has no chance to regain his title and so instead of getting a chance to reclaim his belt, the former champion will instead have to settle for a return to the regional MMA scene at Deep 55 on August 26.

Hirota's opponent for his return has not yet been announced but you can be sure of one thing, if he gets caught in a submission - he will probably consider tapping this time.