Shinya Aoki, the current lightweight champion of One, the most visible promotion in Asia, was announced this week for the ultimate in freak show fights on New Year's Eve. If "fight" is the correct descriptive term.
Aoki was announced as facing Montanha Silva, a former K-1 kickboxer and pro wrestler from Brazil, who is being billed at 227 centimeters (just under 7-foot-5 1/2) and 175 kilos (385 pounds) in a match for the Inoki Genome Federation's "Inoki Bom Ba Ye" show on New Year's Eve at Ryogoku Sumo Hall in Tokyo.
The 38-year-old Brazilian Giant is probably closer to 6-foot-10 and 320 pounds. Aoki (38-6, 1 no contest) is billed at 180 centimeters (just under 5-foot-11) and 70 kilos (154 pounds), numbers that are real. Aoki was near the top of most worldwide lightweight rankings for years. In recent years, he's fought at both featherweight and lightweight.
This giant Silva is not the same "Giant Silva" who fought several matches in PRIDE, who was closer to 7-foot-3 and 385 pounds.
Aoki has won 15 of his last 16 fights, dating back five years. But the only major-name opponent he's faced during that period, Eddie Alvarez, knocked him out in the first round in a Bellator fight on April 20, 2012. His biggest wins have been over former UFC fighters Kamal Shalorus and Antonio McKee..
To say this brings up a lot of questions is an understatement, besides the most obvious one: Whether or not the fight will be legitimate. IGF shows are a combination of pro wrestling and MMA bouts. Usually the matches are advertised ahead of time as either one or the other.
The Aoki vs. Silva fight is just listed as "Bom Ba Ye special match." It is one of two matches being promoted thus far. The other is Fernando Rodrigues Jr. vs. Oli Thompson for the IGF world heavyweight title in the finals of a tournament after the previous champion, Mirko Cro Cop, signed with UFC. All tournament matches were MMA bouts. In Japan, at least right now, they have left the public with the impression it'll be a fight, as part of the advertising of the freak show is that it'll be Aoki's second fight in three days. But logic would still indicate one should be very skeptical. Aoki has done pro wrestling matches in the past, but has also fought two MMA fights with the IGF.
Aoki is already advertised to face Kazushi Sakuraba on the debut of the Rizin Fighting Championships, the new group headed by former PRIDE president Nobuyuki Sakakibara, two nights earlier at the Saitama Super Arena. Aoki vs. Sakuraba, along with Fedor Emelianenko's fight that takes place two nights later against a TBD opponent, will be the two main matches when the Fuji Network, one of the largest broadcast networks in the country, brings MMA back after a several-year absence. The Fuji Network was PRIDE's home in its heyday, and dropped the promotion nearly a decade ago after a public scandal related to the promotion's alleged organized crime ties.
Aoki being announced for the IGF is weird, because it's with a rival promotion. The IGF and Rizin are going head-to-head on New Year's Eve in the Tokyo market, with Rizin running a second show, headlined by Emelianenko, at the Saitama Super Arena, just outside of Tokyo.
The theme for the IGF show is "Knockout the Rizin," basically that they are going to war with Sakakibara's show, and Aoki vs. Silva is billed as "height difference about 50 centimeters fight," with the term fight seemingly constituting that it will be a legitimate freak show fight as opposed to a pro wrestling facsimile of one.
But between the size difference and the fact it's being held two days after a legit fight, no matter how it's being advertised right now, that seems to make no sense, nor does fighting someone that much bigger, nor fighting in the same weekend with two promotions at war with each other.
Giant size difference fights have been a part of Japanese MMA for years, especially on New Year's Eve when the goal is to make the general public who aren't fight fans curious. But even the ridiculous looking Hong-man Choi (a legitimate 7-foot-2 1/2, 319 pounds) fight with Minowa-man (5-foot-9) in 2009 for Dream saw Minowa-man (Ikuhisa Minowa) come in at 192 pounds. Minowa-man actually won that fight via heel hook submission in the second round.