Some six months after it was announced at a press conference in Tokyo that Dream Stage Entertainment had agreed to sell control of the PRIDE Fighting Championships to UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, Japanese news Web sites on Thursday reported that all current PRIDE employees were notified by Jamie Pollack, the Zuffa lawyer charged with overseeing the operations of the PRIDE office, that they had been terminated.
The account of an anonymous PRIDE staff member, reported by preeminent Japanese combat sports Web site God Bless The Ring, stated that on Oct. 3, Pollack informed the 20 employees of the PRIDE office that a conference call would be held the following day.
During the Oct. 4 call, Pollack reportedly instructed employees to immediately turn over their personal computers and cell phones and exit the building. He also told the employees, according to the anonymous staffer, that he would not answer any personal questions or queries from the staff, and that if they had any issues they wished to address, that they should e-mail him. The entire conference call lasted 10 minutes.
The official termination documents of the PRIDE office employees are expected to be executed by American lawyers on Nov. 4.
God Bless The Ring also stated that its staff, along with representatives from no less than three other sports outlets, arrived at the PRIDE office to report on the story at approximately 3 p.m. GBR reported that on arrival, they discovered that access to the third floor of the office building -- the floor that housed the PRIDE offices -- had been restricted.
The Yomiuri Shibun newspaper added that the act was in part motivated by the fact that in May all the contracts of PRIDE's Japanese competitors would lapse, leading to them becoming unsigned free agents anyhow.
Perhaps the cruelest irony of the Japanese media accounts was noted by GBR, which reported the comments of another unnamed PRIDE employee, who said that many staff members had been working on a special proposal intended to celebrate PRIDE's 10th anniversary on Oct. 11.
Sakurai establishes second gym in Sugamo
With the downfall of PRIDE, it has been a period of transition for many fighters, including Hayato Sakurai (Pictures). However, "Mach" has made the most of his time away from the ring and opened a new gym.
On Sept. 30 Sakurai welcomed guests to Mach Dojo Sugamo Branch, his second gym, in Sugamo, Tokyo. The gym officially opened on Oct. 2, and Sakurai has since begun training in the facility for his Oct. 28 Shoot Boxing bout alongside the gym's boxing trainer, Hiroaki Chishima, and standout kickboxer and K-1 MAX veteran Naoki Samukawa. Samukawa, who competed in amateur Shooto several years ago, is a former teammate of Sakurai at GUTSMAN Shooto Dojo.
Sakurai's original Mach Dojo, in his native prefecture of Ibaraki, opened in October 2001 and has produced multiple talents competing in pro Shooto and DEEP, such as Tomonari Taniguchi, Hiroshi Nakano (Pictures) and Kunio Nakajima (Pictures).
Sakurai said his desire to open a new facility was born both out of his desire to begin introducing children to MMA at a young age, as well as his wish to have his own gym to train at when he was in Tokyo. He also revealed that even with his Shoot Boxing bout coming up later this month, he expected to fight in MMA once before the year was out.
New Nagano Dojo makes two for Toikatsu
Sakurai isn't the only fighter opening his second gym.
Japanese 145-pound standout Katsuya Toida (Pictures), who already operates his Wajyutsu Keisyukai Toikatsu Dojo out of Nakano, Tokyo, has opened a new gym in Nagano City, Nagano, aptly named Wajyutsu Keisyukai Toikatsu Nagano Dojo.
The gym, which operates out of the Miyatamura Bushido Hall, will be open for instruction only on Mondays. Helping Toida will be karate and kickboxing competitor Yasuhiko Taguchi.
The gym is the 13th official Wajyutsu Keisyukai network gym. Building on their five flagship facilities (Tokyo Headquarters, A-3 GODS, RJW, Tiger Place), WK added TEAM VAMOS, Team Knuckle and Wajyutsu Keisyukai Yamaguchi to the official WK banner in August.
Toida, who is coming off a win over Gustavo Franca (Pictures) this past July in HEAT, will take on former Shooto world champion Takeshi Inoue (Pictures) for the vacant Shooto Pacific Rim 143-pound title on Nov. 8. The bout will be part of Sustain's BACK TO OUR ROOTS 06 supercard at Yoyogi National Stadium 2nd Gymnasium.
ZST's future with a zest for past
ZST 14 is this Sunday, and the foremost RINGS' offshoot is looking to turn over a new leaf while paying homage to the old school.
ZST's weekend card at Differ Ariake represents a turning point. As the torch-bearing promotion of the RINGS Fighting Network in Japan, ZST's championship format in the past has relied on tournaments rather than regularly defended titles.
In 2004 Marcus Aurelio rose to prominence, winning the ZST 154 Grand Prix, and Lithuanian dynamo Remigijus Morkevicius (Pictures) had his breakout performance in winning the 143-pound Grand Prix in 2005. While ZST did institute a GT-F grappling title for star Hideo Tokoro (Pictures), even ZST's grappling division largely focused on the annual GT-F tournament.
Sunday's event will be headlined by a bout between Yojiro Uchimura and Masashi Takeda to determine ZST's first 165-pound champion, marking the promotion's shift toward divisional titles.
Uchimura and Takeda are no strangers to one another. In the kind of bizarre plotline that could only unfold in ZST, the fighters met last December in the 165-pound ZST Genesis League final, where Taketa submitted Uchimura via armbar to become ZST's top welterweight rookie. More interestingly, in June, the two were teammates for one of ZST's signature tag team grappling matches, facing off against Naoyuki Kotani (Pictures) and Takeda. The team lost when Kotani submitted Takeda via armbar.
While ZST shows some progression in its title picture, the card will also feature a bout under ZST's new RX rules between Hirotaku Kawato and notorious HERO'S referee Yoshinori Umeki. Umeki was the official for the scandal-inciting Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures)-Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures) bout last New Year's Eve.
The RX rule system, which features competitors wearing shin guards, allows for rope escapes of submission attempts and does not allow closed fist strikes to the head. Overall the system is fairly similar to the original rules of Pancrase upon the promotion's inception in 1993.
In one of ZST's aforementioned trademark bouts, the ever-eccentric Takumi Yano (Pictures) will team up with Kenzi Daikanyama to take on Daisuke Yokoyama and Tetsuya Yamada in a tag team grappling affair set for a single fifteen-minute round.
Hioki gets marquee gig in Nagoya
After heading to Osaka last weekend, Shooto's GIG series will go to Nagoya this coming Monday for the 13th installment of GIG CENTRAL.
In a familiar role, native Nagoyan Hatsu Hioki (Pictures) will return to fight in front of his hometown audience against Jong Man Kim (Pictures). Hioki hasn't competed since May, when he dropped a hotly contested split decision to Antonio Carvalho (Pictures). The lanky ALIVE product was slated for a return to action in July on HEAT's card in Nagoya against Gustavo Franca (Pictures), but he was forced to withdraw due to a broken left ring toe.
Kim, who has amassed a large record in small shows in his native South Korea, most recently competed in DEEP in August, when he put a momentary scare into DEEP champ Masakazu Imanari (Pictures). Kim put Imanari on the deck with a potent hook, before the "Ashikan Judan" submitted him with an armbar later in the first round.
The card will also feature extensive action at 168 pounds. In the co-feature, Yoshitaro Niimi (Pictures), who recently joined Nagoya's ALIVE Academy, will take on Hiroshiman Keisuke Sakai (Pictures). Both fighters are coming off impressive wins in March, as Niimi ran roughshod over Swiss fighter Ivan Mussardo (Pictures), and Sakai quickly submitted Paulo Milano.
Also in the 168-pound division, Tomokazu Yuasa (Pictures) and Toshihiko Sugimoto will square off in the second semifinal of the 2007 Shooto middleweight rookie tournament. Yuasa, a former All Japan amateur Shooto champion in 2005, advanced to the semifinals when he picked the lucky envelope after an exciting draw in March against Takesuke Kume (Pictures). Sugimoto advanced by deftly out-grappling Toru Ishinaka (Pictures) in April. The winner will face Akihiro Yamazaki in the tournament finale, likely in December.
In another bout with implications for Shooto's 168-pound Class-B division, the aforementioned Takesuke Kume (Pictures), also a former All Japan amateur king last year, will take on Takuya Sato. The 22-year-old Kume, who is coming off a domination of cult pro-wrestler Brother YASHII in HEAT in July, is seen as a strong frontrunner for next year's Shooto rookie tournament. A win could solidify that status heading into next year.
Hasegawa-Kim rematch headlines DEEP 32 Impact
Also keeping the early week popping, DEEP will head back to Korakuen Hall on Tuesday for its 32 Impact card.
The lineup may have some aspect of deja vu, as the headlining bout is a rematch of the main event from DEEP's most recent Impact card. Looking to gain redemption after a humiliating defeat two months ago, DEEP 168-pound champ Hidehiko Hasegawa (Pictures) will put his title on the line against sterling South Korean prospect Dong Hyun Kim (Pictures).
Hasegawa and Kim met in a highly anticipated non-title affair in August. Kim dominated the reigning champion from bell to bell, stuffing the sambist's takedown attempts before pummeling him on the feet in the second half of the bout. Kim halted Hasegawa with just three seconds to spare in the bout, slamming him to the mat with a crushing rear waistlock slam and stopping him with punches from the mount.
DEEP promoter Shigeru Saeki has teased that if Kim defeats Hasegawa again, he feels a bout with Shinya Aoki (Pictures) would be suitable. Aoki, who is a frequent training partner of Hasegawa, began his career in DEEP and his participation in PRIDE Bushido was precipitated by Saeki.
Another compatriot of Aoki and Hasegawa, DEEP champion Masakazu Imanari (Pictures) will also be in action, taking on veteran journeyman Hiroyuki Abe in a non-title affair. Imanari last saw action in August, overcoming an early knockdown from Korean Jong Man Kim (Pictures) to notch a first-round armbar win.
On the opposite of the spectrum, Abe last fought in February. He put then-Shooto world champion Takeshi Inoue (Pictures) in severe danger early in the bout, dropping him twice and nearly knocking him out before falling victim to Inoue's KO power in a wild slugfest.
The card will also see a host of DEEP regulars competing, as former DEEP 181-pound champion Ryuta Sakurai (Pictures) takes on veteran Eiji Ishikawa (Pictures), female star Satoko Shinashi (Pictures) returns to action against SACHI, and Osakan natives Seichi Ikemoto (Pictures) and Kiuma Kunioku (Pictures) will square off.
GCM announces impromptu EX-eastern bound
Japanese promoter Greatest Common Multiple has made its November card official to get the Cage Force tournaments back on track.
GCM has announced that its EX-eastern bound card will take place Nov. 11 at its familiar digs at Differ Ariake in Tokyo. The card became a necessity after the scheduled 155-pound tournament semifinal between Tomonari Kanomata (Pictures) and Artur Oumakhanov (Pictures) was postponed.
After winning their June quarterfinal bouts over Wataru Miki (Pictures) and Wataru Takahashi (Pictures) respectively, Oumakhanov and Kanomata were scheduled to square off at Sept. 8's Cage Force card alongside the other semifinal bouts in the 155- and 170-pound tournaments. However, in the mean time, Oumakhanov opted to step in for an injured Gesias Calvancanti (Pictures) to face Chute Boxe up-and-comer Andre Amade (Pictures) on the July 16 HERO'S card.
In the bout the young Brazilian blitzed Oumakhanov in a mere 80 seconds. While GCM typically adheres to a rule that competitors must be no less than 50 days removed from a knockout loss before competing, the promotion deliberated on whether or not to allow Oumakhanov to compete on Sept. 8 and eventually opted against it. Instead of naming a replacement for him in the tournament, GCM added another event before the Dec. 1 tournament finale card to allow the semifinal bout to happen.
Unsurprisingly the card will be headlined by the Kanomata-Oumakhanov bout. The winner of the match will then move on to the December 155-pound tournament final, less than three weeks later, against Koutetsu Boku (Pictures). Boku advanced to the final on Sept. 8, taking a hard-fought split decision over Eiji Mitsuoka (Pictures).
Also Sherdog.com has learned that "K-Taro" Keita Nakamura (Pictures) will compete on the card against a yet-to-be-named opponent. Nakamura last competed on April's UFC Fight Night card, when he dropped a unanimous decision to Drew Fickett (Pictures).