The Ultimate Fighting Championship today announced that it has signed top-ten middleweight contender Yoshihiro Akiyama to an exclusive promotional contract that will see him step into the UFC Octagon for the first time this summer.
“I’m excited to bring Akiyama into the UFC and I can see him making an immediate impact in the middleweight division,” said UFC President Dana White. “Besides his great judo and submission game, he’s a finisher, and UFC fans are going to love watching him because he always shows up to fight.”
Press conferences in Japan and Korea will take place in the coming days; details to be announced shortly.
No opponent or date has been determined for Akiyama’s UFC debut.
This pretty much guarantees that the UFC is going east – FAR east – sooner rather than later. Will it be in Korea or in Japan? Akiyama fits into both regions … in Korea they love him and in Japan they love to hate him. I’m assuming his first fight will be at a stateside event, but with press conferences happening over the next few days, who knows what tasty nuggets of info Dana and the gang will let slip about their Asian ambitions?
For those of you who are UFC fans more than MMA fans, Akiyama is one of the biggest stars of the Japanese MMA scene … he is to Korea what Georges St Pierre is to Canada, which is extra fitting since he went through his own little greasing scandal as well. We knew the UFC was serious about busting into Japan sooner rather than later when they pseudo-landed Satoshi Ishii. Now it’s just a matter of time before a show gets announced.
I’m not really sure why I’ve got a boner over the idea of the UFC returning to Japan, but I do. There’s just something very zen about MMA in Japan … even if it’s way more dangerous and cheesy than it’s American counterpart, the general public treats it with a good amount of reverence. Or maybe I’m just looking forward to the insane promotional war that should break out the moment a UFC show is announced.