A difficult situation may have become a full-out nightmare for Dream.
The promotion’s July 21 card at Osaka Castle Hall in Osaka, Japan, has been hit with a host of injuries. Now Dream parent company Fighting and Entertainment Group has announced that Japanese superstar Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto (Pictures) has withdrawn from his bout against Joseph Benavidez (Pictures) due to a knee injury.
Yamamoto could be facing six months on the shelf. He told the Japanese media that while sparring on Thursday, he attempted a flying knee, landed awkwardly on his right leg and heard his knee pop. After icing his knee throughout the night, Yamamoto went to the hospital this morning for X-rays and an MRI.
The 31-year-old firebrand was diagnosed with a partial tear of his right anterior cruciate ligament. Yamamoto said that follow-up would be necessary to determine whether he needs surgery, but that he ardently hopes to not have to go under the knife.
This is not his first high-profile injury. Following his brief departure from MMA to pursue a freestyle wrestling bid for the forthcoming Beijing Olympic Games, Yamamoto suffered a dislocated right elbow during a match with 2004 Athens Games bronze medalist Kenji Inoue at the Emperor's Cup in January 2007.
To add insult to injury, Yamamoto's reputation could be in for a bruising. In the forthcoming issue of infamous Japanese tabloid Shukan Gendai -- best known to MMA fans for investigative assaults on Pride, Pride parent company Dream Stage Entertainment and alleged organized crime affiliations -- a feature story alleges that Yamamoto is an active user of marijuana.
Although such an allegation may not seem particularly hurtful from a Western perspective, marijuana is extremely socially stigmatized in Japan. Under Japan's Cannabis Control Law, simple possession of marijuana alone can result in a five-year prison sentence.
As for Benavidez, Dream event producer Keiichi Sasahara said that the promotion is looking for a replacement opponent and hopes to keep the undefeated protégé of Urijah Faber (Pictures) on the injury-plagued card.
On Wednesday, featherweight standout Hideo Tokoro (Pictures) was involved in a rear-end collision and suffered a mild waist and back injury that has cast his Monday bout with Takeshi Yamazaki (Pictures) into limbo. Previously, Mirko Filipovic (Pictures) and Jerome LeBanner (Pictures) were both nixed from the card due to injuries.