Hello, Japan! Sengoku Gets TUF With "Project: Gold Rush"

Outsidervet_medium- At a press conference yesterday, World Victory Road announced that Sengoku is currently developing "Project Gold Rush," a new Ultimate Fighter-style portion of their SENGOKU-G TV series which will see new and debuting fighters from gyms like GRABAKA, Yoshida Dojo and PANCRASEism competing for spots on the Sengoku roster. (Although, unlike the mother of all MMA reality shows, "P:GR" will presumably focus more on the prospects' training and less on bodily fluids / beverage hurling.) There will be 4-5 fighters from each gym spread across the bantamweight (60kg / 132 lbs), featherweight (65kg / 143 lbs) and lightweight (70kg / 154 lbs) divisions. Beginning later this month with TUF-style no-audience bouts set to air in June, the tournament finals are expected to take place as opening bouts at August's Sengoku IX. Though not necessarily related to the show, Sengoku held open tryouts in Kanagawa back in February where GRABAKA, PANCRASEism, Yoshida, Wajutsu Keishukai and Shooting Gym Tokyo each drafted fighters. At right, GRABAKA's #1 pick: 23-year-old Jyoji Ogawa (6'1", 187 lbs).

- Sengoku IX may also have its first main card bout already, as Tokyo Sports is reporting that Kazuyuki Fujita (15-7) will face Blagoi Ivanov (0-0), the man who beat Fedor in Combat Sambo and had reportedly agreed to a deal with the still-hatching Fighter Mania Championship in Korea. This jibes with an April interview where Ivanov says he may fight three times for Sengoku, as well as post-event comments from WVR that Fujita and Hidehiko Yoshida will return in the fall. The paper also reports that Josh Barnett vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva is on for August, but there's no confirmation from any party on that one just yet.

- After an aborted drop to lightweight last month, Kuniyoshi Hironaka (12-6) will move back to welterweight for a clash with Naoyuki Kotani (18-8-6) at ZST.20 on May 24th. Hironaka will look to get back on the winning track after going 2-4 in his last six, including a disappointing 1-3 run in the UFC. The ZST Bantamweight Championship (or at least a printout of it) will be decided in a bout between Keisuke Fujiwara (6-1-2) and Yuichiro "Yukito" Shirai (4-6-4). The title fight will have unlimited 5-minute rounds, but Fujiwara tends not to go the distance. This is the same show which will feature the Olympic Combination (Katsuhiko Nagata/Kazuyuki Miyata) vs. Team ZST (Tetsuya Yamada/Masayuki Okude) tag-team match.

- DREAM Official profiled Riki Fukuda yesterday. Nothing solid is mentioned about his future with the promotion, but after his performance against Murilo "Ninja" Rua at DREAM.8 and with DREAM looking to build its upper weight classes, one gets the sense we could be seeing him back in the big show soon if he can avenge his loss to Yuichi Nakanishi at Korakuen Hall on June 30th.

- Satoru Kitaoka took home two gold medals at today's 2009 Gi Amateur BJJ & No-Gi Open Tournament in Tokyo, winning in both the 79.5kg no-gi and Absolute no-gi divisions. According to Tony Loiseleur's post-Sengoku VIII wrap-up, we should know Kitaoka's next challenger by the end of the month:

World Victory Road Public Relations Director Takahiro Kokuho indicated [Featherweight Grand Prix] final round matchups, scheduled for Sengoku’s Aug. 2 show, would likely be determined later this month; two of the fallen featherweights will be booked in a tournament reserve bout. In addition, Kokuho expects to announce another welterweight bout for the August card -- the winner of which will become another candidate for the welterweight grand prix -- as well as the challenger for lightweight champion Satoru Kitaoka.

Kazunori Yokota (who picked up a win over Leo Santos at Sengoku VIII this past weekend) and Mizuto Hirota have been mentioned as likely challengers. In the meantime, Kitaoka will tune up against Yukio Sakaguchi (3-4) in Pancrase on June 7th.

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photo via Kamipro

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