Koichiro Kimura, who did both MMA and pro wrestling in the 1990s and was still active in the latter, passed away on Tuesday morning at the age of 44. Kimura's death was reported in the Japanese media and pro wrestling circles as being due to pneumonia.
Kimura is best known for being in the April 20, 1995 Vale Tudo Open tournament at Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Japan, where he lost via choke in 2:07 to eventual tournament winner Rickson Gracie, in the semifinals of an eight-man tournament. He had actually lost his first match to American bobsled racer Todd Hays, but when Hays was injured and couldn't continue, he and another first round loser, Wayne Emons, fought for the right to face Gracie in the semifinals. Kimura eventually won that bout.
Kimura started doing real matches for a group called Submission Arts Wrestling in Japan, but then did mainstream pro wrestling starting in 1990. He moved to RINGS in 1991, a promotion that did both real and predetermined matches, often on the same show, sometimes with fans having a hard time telling them apart.
Since that show, Kimura had been a pro wrestler for a number of smaller promotions, with his last match coming on July 20.
Kimura also started up small female MMA promotions AX and G-Shooto in Japan.