Judoka star Yoshihiro Akiyama was set to take on former Pride champ Wanderlei Silva at UFC 116, but an injury late in his training camp forced “The Axe Murderer” to bow out of their meeting. Wandy was subsequently replaced by slugger Chris Leben, much to the chagrin of Sexiyama.
Upset with the change, Akiyama threatened to remove himself from the card after hearing Leben would be Silva’s sub. The Japanese fighter was looking to make a name for himself stateside and a win over Silva would’ve certainly been a significant feather in his cap.
He eventually settled on facing the former “The Ultimate Fighter” contestant and was handed a 3rdRound submission loss for his efforts.
Akiyama admits that a lack of preparation caused him to suffer only the second loss of his mixed martial arts career, but has dealt with his issues head-on and is fully prepared to work his way back up the UFC’s middleweight totem pole.
“I didn’t have enough time to prepare for my opponent, so during the fight I wasn’t able to come up with a strategy that is specifically for Chris Leben,” Akiyama said through his interpreter during Thursday’s conference call.
Determined not to succumb to the same fate on October 16th, he enlisted the help of renowned MMA trainer and ultimate motivator in Greg Jackson.
“I was able to learn the intricate skills of the takedowns, as well as better striking for MMA. And, most of all, I was able to learn how to deliver a good three rounds of fight in the cage,” stated Akiyama of his time in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Jackson has molded some of the sport’s biggest studs, including 170-pound king Georges St-Pierre and former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. Akiyama is hoping he too can one day hoist Octagon gold, but first thing’s first.
Although the odds will be stacked against him when he enters Michael Bisping’s backyard at the O2 Arena in England, Akyiama knows he can erase the disappointing loss he endured this past July and legitimizing his spot on the roster. It will also inch him closer to his coveted fight with Wanderlei Silva.