by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
After a seven-year layoff, former Pancrase star Masakatsu Funaki, who holds wins in his career over fighters such as Ken & Frank Shamrock, Bas Rutten and Semmy Schilt, is set to return to the fight game, making the announcement official at the K-1 Hero’s show in Japan this weekend.
K-1 had been touting a major announcement that would take place at the K-1 show this weekend and many speculated that it would be about Pride lightweight champion, Takanori Gomi, who was rumored to sign with the organization. K-1 officials advised MMAWeekly that there has been interest from both the organization and Gomi’s side but that Gomi’s current contract situation has to be considered.
Funaki’s last fight out was in May, 2000 when he lost by rear naked choke to Rickson Gracie and hasn’t been seen fighting since then but apparently Funaki got the itch to return to fighting while training Katsuyori Shibata for his fights and approached K-1 about a possible return.
Many critics have questioned Funaki’s return because of his long layoff and concerns about his age, but the Japanese superstar didn’t listen to any of the detractors and came back on his own terms, ready to fight.
K-1 stated that Funaki will make his return at the New Year’s Eve Dynamite show and while no opponent has been named yet, Sadaharu Tanikawa, CEO of K-1, mentioned a couple of possibilities including Kazushi Sakuraba and Rickson Gracie.
Stay tuned to MMAWeekly.com for more details about Funaki’s return as they become available.