2008 Olympic judo gold medalist and prized MMA convert, Satoshi Ishii (0-0), will make his highly anticipated mixed martial arts debut at Sengoku's New Year event.
To compound the ripple effect of this electrifying news, Hidehiko Yoshida (8-7-1), a Japanese MMA mainstay and 1992 Olympic judo gold medalist, has been nominated as his opponent.
In the press conference held today in Tokyo, World Victory Road announced the heavyweight showdown between two former Olympic golden boys. The New Year's event is expected to take place on December 31 or January 3rd, depending on whether WVR chooses to counter-program DREAM/K-1's annual New Years Eve "Dynamite!" show.
The location of the event has yet to be announced.
A highly decorated judoka who's captured the All-Japan Judo Championships twice, Ishii punctuated his judo career on a high note, earning a gold medal in the 100+ kg category in 2008 Olympic Game in Beijing, China. He subsequently expressed his wish to retire from judo at the ripe old age of 21 and transition to mixed martial arts, much to the dismay of the Japanese Judo Federation.
Aiming for the apex from the outset, he declined an initial overture from Fighting and Entertainment Group to fight in DREAM and instead set his sight on the UFC. Dana White greeted him with open arms while he trained with elite camps and fighters such as American Top Team, building serious hype for his UOctagon debut.
In the end, Ishii's UFC career did not materialize, as he officially joined World Victory Road at a public signing event on June 1, 2009.
Following the self-described "ronin" approach to training, Ishii has been trotting through various gyms in Japan and abroad to hone his wrestling, jiu jitsu and all-around MMA game. He hopes to showcase the fruit of his labor against Hidehiko Yoshida.
Citing his respect for Yoshida, he said, "I have admired Yoshida since I was young, and am happy to fight him. It would be great to nail him in the chin with my punch, so I would like to put on an exciting fight."
Yoshida, who turned 40 earlier this month, last suffered a hard-fought split decision loss against Sanae Kikuta in WVR's New Year show. Come fight time, he will have been away from the ring for a year. During the press conference, he hinted at his status as the veteran judoka-turned-MMA fighter as he expressed the intent to "show the challenge of fighting in MMA" to his younger counterpart, Ishii.
Elsewhere in the press conference, WVR's PR director Takahiro Kokuho, announced that Sengoku could undergo a name change beginning with the New Year show. There has been ongoing rumor regarding Sengoku's possible deal with big time Japanese networks such as Fuji TV.
Currently, Sengoku has a soon-to-expire contract with TV Tokyo, the smallest of the Tokyo stations. Perhaps the highly noteworthy bout between Ishii and Yoshida will mark a new beginning for WVR with bigger and better things on horizon, including a lucrative TV contract.
Stay tuned to MMAmania.com for more news on Sengoku's New Year's Eve event as it becomes available.