In Saitama, Japan, on Sunday, 2008 Olympic gold medalist judoka Satoshi Ishii took to the Sengoku ring with microphone in hand. It is well known that Ishii is ready to forgo his judo career and head into professional MMA competition. And on Sunday, clad in a UFC t-shirt, it wasn’t too surprising that Ishii indicated that he is more than likely going to debut in the Octagon.
In his address to the crowd, Ishii apparently told Japanese fans that he is now a mixed marital artist. Besides donning the UFC shirt, he also told the crowd that he plans to fight in the United States, hoping to bring back a “big souvenir” to the Japanese fans, according to a report on Sherdog.com.
That Ishii is likely headed to the UFC just goes to show the power of the MMA juggernaught. In years past, it would have been very difficult to for the promotion to land a Japanese athlete the caliber of Ishii. There is a tremendous amount of support for combat sports in Japan that makes competing for its national athletes a hard sell.
The UFC has become such a force in the sport though, that it appears they are able to sway some of the most prominent athletes from across globe.
Ishii was a special guest of the UFC at UFC 92 on Dec. 27 in Las Vegas. Following the event, Zuffa issued a statement that Ishii had entered into exclusive negotiations to fight under the UFC banner.