Former judo Olympic gold medalist and Pride veteran, Hidehiko Yoshida, finally has an opponent for his farewell bout. On April 25 at Nippon Budokan, Yoshida will stand opposite a familiar face in the ring: The fighter who has been gifted the plum role as the last opponent in Yoshida's illustrious career is none other than his protege, Kazuhiro Nakamura.
J-Rock, sports and entertainment company that will host Yoshida's retirement event, "Astra," announced the Yoshida-Nakamura bout, along with the rest of the fight card, at the press conference held on Thursday, April 1.
Fans and media have held their breath for the announcement of Yoshida's opponent for the last two months. J-Rock president, Takahiro Kokuho, initially hinted at the conclusion of the Winter Olympic game as the timetable for the announcement.
After the original timetable did not materialize, Kokuho baited the media with successive unveiling of additional bouts on the card. At the presser on Thursday, Kokuho stated that he had whittled the list of potential opponents down to one Japanese fighter and one foreign fighter; however, procuring either proved infeasible due to contractual issues and injuries.
As evidenced by the short-lived rumor of Yoshida-Fedor Emelianenko showdown, the "Last Emperor" figured prominently into the mix of Yoshida's potential opponents. In the end, Nakamura surfaced as the available fighter who met the criterion of a "meaningful matchup" for Yoshida.
Yoshida and Nakamura made no secret of the complication stemming from the emotional proximity between them as a teacher and pupil. Nevertheless, they promised to set aside personal emotion in order to fulfill their obligation as professionals.
Elsewhere, Nakamura's originally proposed opponent, Denis Kang, has been forced to withdraw due to back injury. Kang recently withdrew from the headlining bout against Vernon White on the W-1 fight card in March ; he is slated to undergo surgery to treat the nagging injury.
Ryo Chonan, who bested Andrews Nakahara at DREAM 13 a week and half ago, has been booked to face South Korean Spirit MC veteran, Jung Hwan Cha. Professing that he has not fully recovered from the aforementioned fight in DREAM, Chonan has nonetheless agreed to fight at Astra out of his reverence toward Yoshida.
Rounding out the fight card will be a pair of lightweight bouts. Sengoku and Bellator standout, Jorge Masvidal, will return to Japan to take on the ZST and UFC veteran, Naoyuki Kotani. Also, Shooto veteran, Ganjo Tentsuku faces the DREAM/Strikeforce/Cage Rage veteran and slick grappler, Daisuke Nakamura.
Hidehiko Yoshida vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura
Ryo Chonan vs. Jung Hwan Cha
Daisuke Nakamura vs. Ganjo Tentsuku
Jorge Masvidal vs. Naoyuki Kotani
Enson Inoue vs. Antz Nansen
Michihiro Omigawa vs. Micah Miller
Che Mills vs. Yuya Shirai
Tatsunao Nagakura vs. Akihiko Mori