Thomas Gerbasi, UFC - While the NFL’s free agent signing frenzy makes headlines in sports sections around the United States, in Asia, all the chatter is about the UFC’s new signee, middleweight contender Yoshihiro Akiyama, who made his entrance into the Octagon official during press conferences in Tokyo and Korea last week.
While the NFL’s free agent signing frenzy makes headlines in sports sections around the United States, in Asia, all the chatter is about the UFC’s new signee, middleweight contender Yoshihiro Akiyama, who made his entrance into the Octagon official during press conferences in Tokyo and Korea last week.
And though there were many suitors lining up for a chance to bring the 33-year old Osaka native into the fold, in the end, Akiyama decided that fighting in the UFC and in the United States was the right move for him and his career.
“I felt that venturing out overseas had a bigger meaning to me,” said Akiyama, who inked a two year, six fight deal with the organization. He expects to make his UFC debut this summer, and while no opponent has been determined for the fight, he hopes to fight his first UFC bout on perhaps the biggest show of the year.
“No details about dates have been discussed,” he told reporters, “but I have informed the UFC about my desire to fight at UFC 100”.
In the meantime, Akiyama will be hitting the gym to prepare for life in a UFC middleweight division ruled by Anderson Silva. Silva is the ultimate goal for Akiyama, but at the press conferences at the Mitsubishi Building in Tokyo and at the Seoul Millennium Hilton Hotel in Seoul, he expressed interest in possible matches with Wanderlei Silva and Yushin Okami, should Okami should become champion, as Akiyama hopes. Oddly enough, Akiyama had recently trained with Okami and former UFC lightweight title challenger Caol Uno at the Keishukai gym, learning about the different techniques that he’ll be seeing in the UFC, as well as picking up tips on dealing with fighting in the Octagon.
Now training in Hawaii, Akiyama (who also announced big news in his personal life this week as he filed the paperwork for his marriage to model and television personality Shiho Yano) has been invited to April’s UFC 97 show in Montreal to get an up close look at the Anderson Silva when he defends his title against Thales Leites. There, he will get a taste of what awaits him this summer in terms of the level of fighters and the atmosphere surrounding the event. It’s something Akiyama is ready for.
“I will do my best in America,” he said.