The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has confirmed today that middleweight superstar Yoshihiro Akiyama has signed an exclusive contract with the promotion and will debut inside the Octagon at some point this summer.
A fourth-generation Japanese-born Korean, Akiyama (12-1) has long been one of Japan’s biggest heels. Akiyama went Exxon Valdez on Japanese hero Kazushi Sakuraba at K-1 Premium Dynamite!! in 2006. His TKO victory over the legend was changed to a No Contest after some questions were raised about his pre-fight ritual of getting freaky with a jar of Olay and a Japanese “grease-gate” was born.
After cleaning the clock of now-UFC middleweight Denis Kang at Hero’s 2007, Akiyama made waves at Yarennoka 2007 when Kazuo Misaki turned his face inside-out with a brutal soccer kick.
While originally ruled a knockout, an Akiyama complaint forced officials to review the tape and reverse the match to a No Contest as it was decided prior to the event that kicks to a downed opponent would be considered a foul.
Fans were not pleased.
Still, Akiyama is a talented fighter capable of winning anywhere at anytime — none of his twelve wins have gone the distance. In addition, he can finish in style with either a spinning back kick (Nagata) or an Ezekiel choke (Shibata, Ishizawa).
It was enough to convince UFC President Dana White that he’s got the goods:
“I’m excited to bring Akiyama into the UFC and I can see him making an immediate impact in the middleweight division. 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.”
The decorated judoka has now given the land of the rising sun yet one more reason to loathe him by signing with Zuffa, especially those still bitter by the dissolution of PRIDE.
Unfortunately one man’s loss is another man’s gain, and this is one MMA fan that is looking forward to yet another stellar addition to the UFC middleweight division.