Kazushi Sakuraba has Open UFC Invitation from Dana White

Kazushi Sakuraba and Ricardo Arona PrideKazushi Sakuraba has definitely seen better days in his fighting career, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not wanted.

UFC president Dana White counts “the Gracie Hunter” among his favorites.

Although he wasn’t exactly sure if Sakuraba would be in attendance when the UFC returns to Japan this weekend to run its first event there in 12 years, White extended an open invitation. All Sakuraba has to do is say the word and he’s got a seat at UFC 144 at Saitama Super Arena.

No, he’s not inviting Sakuraba to compete in the Octagon, although he surely would if times were different.

“One of my favorite fighters ever, Kazushi Sakuraba, is a guy who I think should have fought in a different weight class, fought way too far outside of his weight class,” White commented following Thursday’s UFC 144 Pre-Fight Press Conference.

“It would have been interesting to see, if Sakuraba was in the right weight class and in the right organization, what that guy would have been able to do.”

Kazushi Sakuraba PrideKazushi Sakuraba fought everywhere from welterweight on up to light heavyweight. In fact, he even fought several times in open weight tournaments competing against heavyweights.

He event fought under the UFC banner when the promotion ventured to Yokohama in 1997.

Having been bloodied and brutalized by much larger opponents for a significant portion of his career, Sakuraba, while still active, has long passed on from being a top competitor. Losing six of his eight most recent fights, he’s riding his career into the sunset.

Sakuraba isn’t going to finish his legendary run as a fighter in the UFC, but he is, as Dana White said, more than welcome to come to this weekend’s event as an honored guest of the UFC president.