Koubousen Companion: PRIDE Replacement?
After six months of anxiety, vacancy and speculation ... your "new
PRIDE" may be here.
A new mixed martial arts company named World Victory Road Inc.,
issued a notice Thursday of a news conference at Tokyo's Prince
Hotel on Oct. 15. The contact information on the release listed a
cell phone number belonging to an employee of J-ROCK, the
promotional group housing Hidehiko Yoshida (Pictures) and his stable of fighters.
A well-placed source has indicated to Sherdog.com that J-ROCK will
be responsible for a majority of the upstart company's operations
while former UFC-Japan head Akira Sakata is slated to be the top
man in the promotion.
The notice also states that the news conference will be attended by
Takao Yasuda, Naoya Kinoshita and Tomiaki Fukuda.
Yasuda, a wealthy sponsor of several pro boxers and MMA fighters,
heads up Don Quijote, one of Japan's largest chain stores. The
company boasts more than 130 stores in Japan as well as several in
Hawaii. It is perhaps best known to MMA fans by its large blue
penguin mascot, Donpen, which appears on Hidehiko Yoshida (Pictures)'s gis and in the infamous
entrances of Kazuhiro
Kinoshita is the president of the Kinoshita Group, a prominent
Japanese construction corporation. The company specializes in
custom-built homes, rental housing, apartment design, large-scale
residential projects and building maintenance. Currently Kinoshita
Group has more than 1,600 employees across five subsidiaries and
other affiliated businesses in Japan, China and the United
Fukuda is the president of the Japanese Wrestling Association. He's
also the vice president of International Federation of Associated
Wrestling Styles, known by the French acronym FILA, which sanctions
all international amateur wrestling competition.
Fukuda is notable in the world of fight sports for his association
with PRIDE and Combat Wrestling, which influenced the Japanese
Wrestling Association to introduce "Pankration," a form of
submission wrestling, into the canon of Japanese Wrestling
Association events in 2005.
Most importantly the source revealed that the company will use
former Olympic gold medal judoka and Japanese superstar Hidehiko Yoshida (Pictures) as its main draw and that prized
free agent Takanori Gomi
(Pictures) is likely to join the
company as well.
Yoshida's participation is perhaps no surprise. He is the main star
of J-ROCK who will be responsible for much of the company's muscle,
and he is perhaps the most popular of all the PRIDE free agents in
Japan. Although it has been speculated that Gomi may head to K-1
HERO'S, Gomi's agent Ken Imai, perhaps best known as Mirko "Cro
Filipovic's agent, has a strained relationship with parent company
Fight Entertainment Group. Moreover, the source indicated Fukuda's
relationship to World Victory Road is of particular influence, as
he is seen as a mentor to Gomi and an extremely trustworthy
The company is reportedly aiming for February 2008 for its first
event, which may be confirmed at the Oct. 15 news conference.
On a mildly related note, J-ROCK-handled competitor Kazuhiro Nakamura
(Pictures) will reportedly appeal his
suspension issued by the California State Athletic Commission for
testing positive for marijuana.
The 28-year-old Nakamura tested positive following his Sept. 22 UFC
bout against Ryoto
Machida (Pictures) in Anaheim, Calif. He was
suspended for three months and $500. His appeal will be heard
before the California State Athletic Commission on Oct. 31.
After the positive test was announced on Sept. 26, J-ROCK issued a
news release to the Japanese media that said Nakamura was a man of
character who teaches judo to children, and he had no incentive to
use marijuana. Furthermore J-ROCK claimed that a post-fight CT scan
in California led to a doctor's opinion that Nakamura had brain
bleeding, but a follow-up CT scan and MRI in Japan suggested
otherwise. Accordingly, J-ROCK said, Nakamura's urine sample had
likely been mishandled, leading to a false positive.
While there may be a new organization to combat the Octagon,
Japan's premier cage-based organization has significantly bolstered
its next card.
Japanese promoter Greatest Common Multiple has announced six more
bouts for its Nov. 11 CAGE FORCE: EX-eastern bound card at Differ
Arike in Tokyo. Originally it was thought that the card would not
feature a considerable amount of notable talent. The event was
hastily arranged in order to host the necessary Tomonari Kanomata
(Pictures)-Artur Oumakhanov (Pictures) 154-pound tournament semifinal
that was delayed due to Oumakhanov's KO loss in HERO'S, and the
year's CAGE FORCE finale is Dec. 1.
However, GCM has announced several noteworthy bouts for the card,
including the return of Keita "K-Taro" Nakamura. Nakamura, who
hasn't competed since his April loss to Drew Fickett (Pictures) in the UFC, will return to action
against Combat Wrestling national champion and ADCC veteran
Hanai was crushed by former Pancrase champ Katsuya Inoue (Pictures) in CAGE FORCE last November. He
was given the name "The Real Ashikan Judan," refuting Masakazu Imanari (Pictures)'s leglocking supremacy, after he
won the 2005 Combat Wrestling Nationals, earning MVP and quickest
submission honors by submitting all of his opponents with
In a 145-pound affair that will likely offer some potent displays
on the feet, certified slugger Fanjin Son (Pictures) will take on kickboxing convert
(Pictures). It will be the first
action of the year for Son, who had his June bout with Hideki Kadowaki (Pictures) cancelled after he sustained a
broken rib in training. Yoshimoto fought to a competitive draw with
Sunabe (Pictures) last month.
The bout is also somewhat of a Shooto versus Pancrase match, as Son
has competed his entire career in Shooto while all of Yoshimoto's
MMA bouts have come under the Pancrase banner. Both men have
kickboxing experience, having competed in promotions such as All
Japan Kickboxing Federation, New Japan Kickboxing Federation and
Also, 2006 Shooto 154-pound rookie champion Yoshihiro Koyama (Pictures) will return to action against
(Pictures). The bout would seem to be
a showcase of sorts for Koyama. He has drawn the praise of many of
Japan's top fighters, such as Tatsuya Kawajiri (Pictures), Hayato Sakurai (Pictures), Mitsuhiro Ishida (Pictures) and Ryota Matsune (Pictures), who say he is one of the
nation's best young fighters.
Kanehara, 0-4-1, has been matched tough and is typically game, but
he figures to play the role of "opponent" for the powerful Koyama.
In his most recent fight, Kanehara was slickly submitted in June by
Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone.
In other added bouts, Masahiro Toryu (Pictures) will take on Keitaro Maeda (Pictures); Naoki Miyamoto will face
Yoshiaki Fujiwara; and Daisuke Hoshino will meet
It's been a busy year for DEEP, and Shigeru Saeki is looking to
punctuate it in a big way.
Saeki revealed earlier this week that DEEP will return to Osaka on
Dec. 22 for DEEP Protect Impact at Umeda Stella Hall. The event,
which will be held in conjunction with sponsor Protect, provides a
quick turn-around for the promotion in heading back to Osaka for a
major card. Until July's DEEP 30 Impact, the last time DEEP had
been to Osaka for an Impact card was for 14 Impact in April
The card will also feature local favorites Seichi Ikemoto (Pictures) and Pancrase 141-pound champion
(Pictures) as well as DEEP 106-pound
queen Miku Matsumoto
(Pictures) and Ryuichi Murata (Pictures). Maeda stated that it was his
wish to face a ranked Shooto competitor on the card, providing the
opportunity for a rare Shooto versus Pancrase match-up.
Perhaps more importantly, Saeki announced that the event would be
aired on tape delay on Television Osaka, the local Osaka affiliate
station of the TV Tokyo network. Currently DEEP represents an
interesting case in the Japanese kakutougi industry, due to its
sustainability and product quality despite the fact its only
television exposure is on the relatively hard-to-access, premium
satellite channel Samurai TV.
Promotions of comparable stature, Shooto and Pancrase, both have
television deals outside of Samurai TV. Shooto airs on J-Sports,
Japan's answer to ESPN, and Pancrase airs on Sky A Sports, which is
affiliated with major broadcasting network TV Asahi.
Saeki also said he planned on "spending New Year's Eve in Saitama."
The perceived implication of the statement is that Saeki is trying
to put together a New Year's Eve card at the Saitama Super Arena,
formerly the home of PRIDE, where Saeki served as a talent and PR
director. Yet, it is unknown how these plans will be affected by
the forthcoming unveiling of World Victory Road Inc. It was thought
Saeki's project would be supported by J-ROCK, which is now
apparently a power player in the World Victory Road venture.
However, first things first for DEEP in Osaka, and that means
clubDEEP in Osaka this Saturday at Azalea Taisho Hall.
The feature bout seems calculated for excitement, pitting
Hiroshiman heavy hitter Yasushi Kitazaki (Pictures) against Osakan journeyman
Ken Hamamura (Pictures), who is also known for his
Hamamura picked up a pair of wins in DEEP in July, besting YABU at
DEEP 30 Impact in Osaka and smashing South Korean Dong Ho Han two weeks later at the
second annual CMA Festival in Tokyo. On the aforementioned 30
Impact card, Kitazaki saw his last action when he quickly submitted
local grassroots regular Hiroshi "Goodman" Tanaka in the first
round to avenge the first loss of his career.
Hamamura's teammate Tomoyuki Fukami (Pictures) will take on Marlon Meideiros in
the evening's co-feature. Fukami, a regular of DEEP's Osaka events,
also found victory at 30 Impact in July, running over Henrik
"Wolverine" Kakiuchi. Meideiros, a Brazilian training out of
(Pictures)'s Nex Sports in Nagoya,
last competed in his adopted home at clubDEEP in Nagoya, submitting
Also on the bill, YABU will face Toru Eto, and Nobuyoshi Takahara
takes on Taiki Yonashiro. The Kansai representatives for DEEP's
next Future King Tournament series will be decided, in addition to
four kickboxing bouts in conjunction with Osakan promoter Next
With cards in Tokyo and Yamaguchi last month, this will be the
third clubDEEP event in four weeks. The clubDEEP tour will continue
on with events in Hamamatsu on Oct. 21, Sendai on Oct. 28 and a
Dec. 9 event in Kanazawa.
Also on slate for Saturday, MARS will make its return to Shinjuku
FACE in Tokyo. As per usual, the card will be a hybrid event
featuring both MMA and kickboxing and several bouts under MARS' new
"Blast Bout" banner, which features stand-up kickboxing affairs
with MMA gloves.
The event will feature an MMA main event between South Korean
Do Hyung Kim (Pictures) and Hiroyuki Nozawa (Pictures). Neither man has competed since
December, when Nozawa was punched out in Pancrase by Koji Oishi (Pictures), and Kim won the MARS 154-pound
tournament, defeating Akihiko
Mori (Pictures) and Atsuhiro Tsuboi (Pictures). The bout was supposed to lead to
a potential fight in BodogFIGHT before Bodog and MARS severed
Also in MMA action, Takanori
Onda (Pictures) will take on Brazilian import
Eduardo Majorino; South Korea's Parky will take on another
Brazilian, William Animal; and in the evening's main card opener,
Brazilian Samuel Perigoso will meet Brazilian-Japanese fighter
The biggest card in Nihon this weekend will come courtesy of
Pancrase, as the promotion continues the 2007 Rising Tour at Differ
Ariake in Tokyo on Sunday afternoon.
The main event is a Pancrase heavyweight title clash, pitting
champion Assuerio Silva
(Pictures) against former champion
Kestutis "Tiger" Arbocius. Arbocius won the vacant title in August
2006 by defeating upstart Hawaiian Poai Suganuma (Pictures), but he was unable to make his
mandatory title defense against Tatsuya Mizuno (Pictures) in May.
As a result, Silva, who had recently departed from the UFC, stepped
into a title bout with the aforementioned Mizuno and dominated en
route to a second-round stoppage to earn the vacant crown.
However, the "real" main event, at least for the Pancrase faithful,
will see the return of hybrid wrestling icon Yuki Kondo (Pictures) against full-contact karateka
Perhaps Pancrase's most well-known modern export and still-reigning
light heavyweight champion, Kondo's recent struggles have been well
documented. He is 4-7-1 in the past three years, including a very
unsuccessful run in PRIDE. After spending the first half of 2007
recovering from hand surgery, Kondo faced Trevor Prangley (Pictures) in BodogFIGHT for the promotion's
185-pound title. In a lackluster performance, the Pancrase king was
defeated due to a doctor stoppage after 10 minutes.
Sakuragi, who competed in a one-night vale tudo tournament in
Russia earlier this year, most recently dropped an unimpressive
decision to journeyman Katsuhisa Fujii (Pictures) at DEEP's Glove event in
In other notable action, 141-pounders Manabu Inoue (Pictures) and Jin Suk Jung will do battle;
veteran Takuya Wada
(Pictures) takes on Hyun Kwan Kim; the
ever-eccentric Hikaru Sato
(Pictures) faces Kiichi Hirayama; and
resident Pancrase brawler Kenji
Arai (Pictures) meets Kiichi Hirayama.
Not all the Japanese action will take place in Japan this
(Pictures) has the opportunity to make
waves in South Korea. The Hidehiko Yoshida (Pictures) pupil is one of the final four in
Spirit MC's Heavyweight Grand Prix, which will conclude Sunday at
the Jang Chung Gymnasium in Seoul.
Having quickly knocked out Dong Woo Shin in his August
quarterfinal, Murata will now take on Jae Young Kim in
his semifinal bout in the tournament. Kim also made quick work of
his August opponent, running roughshod over Gil Myung Chun in just 73
The winner of the fight will take on the winner of the first
semifinal bout between Jung Kyu Choi and Kelvin Fitial.
The Grand Prix champion will earn the right to face recent K-1
HERO'S signee Denis Kang
(Pictures), who is scheduled to
compete in South Korea at the HERO'S Seoul card on Oct. 28 for the
Spirit MC heavyweight title.
Finally, congratulations are in order for female star Satoko Shinashi (Pictures), who was recently married.
Despite recent wedding festivities, the 30-year-old reigning Smack
Girl 106-pound champion showed no sign of distraction in her Oct. 9
return bout against SACHI in DEEP. In an exciting bout, Shinashi
swept SACHI and submitted her with a tight straight armbar from the
mount for the victory.
After the bout Shinashi told the crowd at Korakuen Hall of her
recent marriage. She said that matrimony would not interfere with
her career and that she would continue to fight into the
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