UFC: Japan Are You in the House?

Written by Tom Ngo
February 3rd, 2009

First it was PrideFC, and now the UFC looks to take the entire country of Japan by storm. UFC president Dana White said that he and the organization’s headmasters intend to penetrate the highly coveted MMA mecca, no matter how difficult the task might prove to be. White also expressed interest in a few of the country’s brightest stars.

“The Japanese market has always been important to me,” White stated. “It’s a very, very, very tough place to navigate and do business. But, [expletive] ’em. We’re going to do it anyway. They will not stop me from going into Japan.”

Regulations and politics will present significant roadblocks for the world’s largest MMA organization to get into Japan. In addition, it will be interesting to see how the traditional Japanese fans accept the intimidating Octagon, as opposed to the classic ring that they have grown so accustomed to.

White also expressed interest in a few Japanese fighters, with lightweight sensation Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto topping his wish list.

“I’ve been a ‘Kid’ Yamamoto fan for a long time,” White said of the exciting 17-1 fighter. “I’d love to get him over here. There’s two fights left on [Yamamoto’s] K-1 contract, and he told me his dream is to end his career over here with us, so I’d like to see it happen.”

In addition to Yamamoto, White also mentioned bringing back 33-year-old UFC veteran Caol Uno and 22-year-old Olympic gold medalist Satoshi Ishii, who has been heavily recruited by many MMA organizations, however has never competed in a professional mixed martial arts bout.

“Caol Uno, I love him,” White said. “He’ll always be a part of the UFC. And yeah, we’re talking to him, too. And Ishii also.”

From 2001-2003, Uno compiled a 3-3-1 record in the UFC including an infamous draw with current lightweight champion BJ Penn at UFC 41.

Ishii earned a gold medal in judoka in the +100 kg (over 220 pounds) weight class at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. He will bring much needed depth to the UFC’s heavyweight division.

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