For months now rumors have been circulating that former K-1 HERO’S and DREAM star, Yoshihiro Akiyama, was going to sign with the UFC. Today, according to a release on UFC.com, the Japanese fighter with South Korean heritage has finally come to terms with the promotion.
Akiyama’s international athletic career started in judo. During his career he accomplished a rare feat of winning the Asian games as both a competitor for South Korea and Japan in consecutive years, 2001-2002.
After the completion of his judo career, Akiyama moved to MMA. He made his debut against boxer Fracois Botha at K-1 Premium Dynamite 2004 card and submitted his opponent with a first round armbar.
Akiyama began to get serious consideration in MMA after he captured HERO’S 2005 tournament championship with a submission victory over Melvin Manhoef. However, the hype around the fighter came to a crashing halt when he was accused of greasing after his fight with legendary Kazushi Sakuraba. This was not the first time these allegations had been directed toward him. In the 2003 World Judo Championships he was forced to wear a back up judo gi due to greasing accusations.
Once HERO’S gave way to DREAM, Akiyama became one of the most popular faces in the promotion. Despite the fact he faced low profile opponents, his fights were still amongst the highest rated portions of the DREAM broadcasts.
This signing, along with the previously announced signing of Caol Uno, signifies the UFC’s intention of moving into Japan. Right now, there is no word on when Yoshihiro Akiyama will make his debut. According to UFC.com press conferences in Japan and Korea are scheduled to take place in the coming days.