This Month’s MMA Birthdays: Kazushi Sakuraba Turns 50

By: Brian Knapp
Jul 1, 2019

If they built a Mount Rushmore for the sport of mixed martial arts, Kazushi Sakuraba seems a worthy candidate for inclusion. The Japanese icon will celebrate his 50th birthday on July 14.

Sakuraba emerged from the ashes of Nobuhiko Takada’s failed MMA career and became one of the sport’s unlikeliest superstars. A professional wrestler and skilled submission grappler, he successfully merged the two disciplines, rose from the early days of Pride Fighting Championships and helped lift the Japanese promotion to unprecedented heights. A rivalry with MMA’s First Family remains the centerpiece of Sakuraba’s career. He became known as “The Gracie Hunter” during an incredible 13-month stretch from November 1999 to December 2000, when he defeated Royler Gracie, Royce Gracie, Renzo Gracie and Ryan Gracie. The crown jewel of the series was Sakuraba’s epic 90-minute confrontation with Royce at the Tokyo Dome on May 1, 2000. Their battle concluded when Rorion Gracie threw in the towel on his younger brother’s behalf after six exhausting 15-minute rounds. Though Sakuraba lingered in the sport well past his prime, he was a remarkable competitor during his prime and a central figure in MMA’s growth.

Others in MMA celebrating a birthday in July:

JULY 1

Amar Suloev, 1976-2016
Vener Galiev, 44
Forrest Griffin, 40
Cat Zingano, 37
Ali Yaakub, 35
Karlos Vemola, 34
Norman Paraisy, 33
Craig White, 29
William Macario, 28

JULY 2

Brad Cardinal, 41
Vinny Magalhaes, 35
Godofredo Castro, 32
Brett Cooper, 32
Hakeem Dawodu, 28

JULY 3

Mike Bencic, 53
Wanderlei Silva, 43
Tommy Depret, 40
Danny Abbadi, 36
Sascha Weinpolter, 33

JULY 4

Yoshihisa Yamamoto, 49
Dave Vader, 42
Julia Budd, 36
Shamil Zavurov, 35
Tyrell Fortune, 29

JULY 5

John Alessio, 40
Edson Berto, 36
Kevin Knabjian, 35
Ian McCall, 35
Waqar Umar, 29
Luis Pena, 26
Joe Giannetti, 24

JULY 6

Tom Erikson, 55
Masaaki Sugawara, 40
Mike Rio, 38
Gesias Cavalcante, 36
Hans Stringer, 32

JULY 7

Jason Brilz, 44
Pat Barry, 40
Eliot Marshall, 39
Stav Economou, 33
Patricio Freire, 32
Adam Yandiev, 31
Cody Garbrandt, 28

JULY 8

Taiei Kin, 49
Randy Brown, 29
Jonas Billstein, 28
Kiamrian Abbasov, 26
Angela Lee, 23

JULY 9

Renato Sobral, 44
Tim Credeur, 42
George Sotiropoulos, 42
Gerald Turek, 40
Peter Davis, 38
Cristiane Justino, 34
Ashlee Evans-Smith, 32

JULY 10

Pete Williams, 44
Gleison Tibau, 36
Brock Jardine, 34
Aaron Derrow, 32
Helen Peralta, 31

JULY 11

Jesse Finney, 45
Josh Clopton, 38
Enoc Solves Torres, 35
Brandon Thatch, 34
Kron Gracie, 31

JULY 12

Keiichiro Yamamiya, 47
Brock Lesnar, 42
Carlos Eduardo Rocha, 38
Mitch Whitesel, 38
Cody Pfister, 29

JULY 13

Dave Strasser, 50
Hidehiko Hasegawa, 41
Jonathan Goulet, 40
Tom Watson, 37
Rina Tomita, 35

JULY 14

Kazushi Sakuraba, 50
Mostapha Al-Turk, 46
Falaniko Vitale, 45
Wagnney Fabiano, 44
Rolles Gracie, 41
Leonard Garcia, 40
Shane Roller, 40
Ray Sloan, 34
Alex Garcia, 32
Conor McGregor, 31
Jason Knight, 27
Nicholas Lee, 24

JULY 15

Antony Rea, 43
Matt Mitrione, 41
Kevin Croom, 32
Chris Curtis, 32
Viktor Pesta, 29

JULY 16

Javier Vazquez, 42
Toby Imada, 41
Kazuhiro Nakamura, 40
Walel Watson, 35
Lacey Schuckman, 31
Louis Smolka, 28

JULY 17

Alexander Otsuka, 48
Yuki Kondo, 44
Sean McCorkle, 43
Ricardo Arona, 41
Mamed Khalidov, 39
Travis Browne, 37
Saul Elizondo, 34
Mike Byrnes, 29

JULY 18

Crosley Gracie, 40
Hatsu Hioki, 36
Ben Askren, 35
Alexander Yakovlev, 35
Andreas Michailidis, 31

JULY 19

Jeremiah Constant, 45
Raphael Assuncao, 37
Alan Patrick Silva Alves, 36
Elvis Mutapcic, 33
Hector Sandoval, 33
Jon Jones, 32

JULY 20

Aaron Simpson, 45
Pat Healy, 36
Ryan Healy, 36
Ryan McCurdy, 34
Gilbert Burns, 33

JULY 21

Paulo Cesar Silva, 56
Chris Leben, 39
Yushin Okami, 38
Antonio dos Santos Jr., 31
Filip Pejic, 27

JULY 22

Carlos Barreto, 51
Adrienna Jenkins, 38
Mark Hominick, 37
Eddie Gordon, 36
Cain Carrizosa, 33
Israel Adesanya, 30
Rory MacDonald, 30

JULY 23

Guram Gugenishvili, 1987-2014
Georgy Kaysinov, 48
Akira Kikuchi, 41
Sergio Moraes, 37
LeVon Maynard, 36
Kalindra Faria, 33
Chad Laprise, 33
Marcus Vanttinen, 32
Teruto Ishihara, 28

JULY 24

Jason DeLucia, 50
Takahiro Kajita, 43
Nathan Coy, 41
Mike Lullo, 40
Tim Carpenter, 39
Josh Sampo, 35
Julian Lane, 32

JULY 25

Seth Kleinbeck, 46
Tiequan Zhang, 41
Tom Niinimaki, 37
Michel Prazeres, 36
Vitaly Bigdash, 35
Eric Wisely, 35
Chris Honeycutt, 31

JULY 26

Jeff Blatnick, 1957-2012
Yukio Sakaguchi, 46
Tony DeSouza, 45
Devin Clark, 31
Anthony Smith, 31
Thomas Gifford, 27

JULY 27

Drew McFedries, 41
Lauren Murphy, 36
Daniel Straus, 35
Julia Borisova, 34
Rafael Carvalho, 33
Jessica Eye, 33

JULY 28

Dana White, 50
Danny Davis Jr., 37
Cain Velasquez, 37
Ilir Latifi, 36
George Pacurariu, 35
Darrell Horcher, 32
Gunnar Nelson, 31

JULY 29

Dave Menne, 45
Yoshihiro Akiyama, 44
Jay Hieron, 43
Steve Bosse, 38
Matt Grice, 38

JULY 30

Murilo Bustamante, 53
Fabricio Werdum, 42
Marius Zaromskis, 39
Robert Emerson, 38
Anthony Christodoulou, 32

JULY 31

Jim Theobald, 42
Tito Jones, 38
Joseph Benavidez, 35
Uriah Hall, 35
Julian Erosa, 30
Aljamain Sterling, 30
Thomas Almeida, 28

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