Hans Nijman, a kickboxer and pro wrestler in Japan who fought in the now-legendary Pride Open Weight Grand Prix tournament in 2000, was shot to death on Wednesday while in his car in front of a gym he partially owned in Beverwijk, Holland, according to multiple Dutch media reports.
Nijman was 55.
There was conjecture the shooting was mob related. It took place just before 10 p.m. local time that night. People in the area reported hearing shots from automatic weapons. Two vehicles were later found on fire at a car park that was then sealed off. Dutch news sources labeled it a gangland killing.
It was reported in the local media regarding the death that Nijman’s name had come up in a number of investigations into drug dealing and blackmail. He was also reportedly linked with Dino Soerel, who is reputed to be an Amsterdam crime boss.
The killing came at a time when Fred Ros, who knew Nijman from his gym, was testifying for the government in a major gangland trial in Amsterdam.
Nos TV in Holland reported that another former kickboxer, pro wrestler and MMA fighter, Dick Vrij, who co-owned the Top Team gym, was in voluntary police custody after learning over the summer that his life could be in danger.
Nijman and Vrij were part of the group of Amersterdam kickboxers who made their names as pro wrestlers for the RINGS organization in Japan, which was a monthly fixture in the 90s on the WOWOW Channel, a Japanese equivalent to HBO or Showtime. They were among the regular stars for the group which also included a number of fighters who later transitioned into MMA like Kiyoshi Tamura, Tsuyoshi Kosaka and Volk Han, and was also the organization that legendary Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler Alexander Karelin once performed in.
Nijman was one of the major stars with the group in the 90s. When RINGS made the transition from doing predetermined matches to doing non-predetermined matches, Nijman won three of his four fights with the group, even though he was nearly 40.
But he only fought once in Pride, on January 30, 2000, losing via submission to Kazuyuki Fujita in the first round of the World Grand Prix tournament at the Tokyo Dome. This was the tournament that Mark Coleman ended up winning, and where Kazushi Sakuraba beat Royce Gracie in their legendary 90 minute match in second round of the tournament. He did some MMA fights for the next few years. In his final fight, at the age of 43, he lost via armbar to Cheick Kongo on June 8, 2003, in Amsterdam.