Satoshi Ishii (left) will square off against his judo senior Hidehiko Yoshida this winter in one of Japanese MMA's biggest - and most important - bouts in years. Photo via Sportsnavi.
Sengoku still doesn't have a date set for its New Year event, but it's certainly got a headliner. World Victory Road have announced today that 2008 Beijing Olympic judoka Satoshi Ishii will make his MMA debut against fellow gold medalist and former PRIDE fighter Hidehiko Yoshida (8-7-1).
The heavyweight bout is expected to take place on either December 31st or January 3rd, depending on whether WVR chooses to go head-to-head with DREAM parent company FEG's annual New Year's Eve "Dynamite!!" show. The company says a decision will be made at some point this month.
Some comments from today's presser in Tokyo:
Ishii said: "I’ve respected Yoshida since I was young, and it’s a good thing that I’m able to fight him. To be able to nail his chin with my punch is also a good thing."
Yoshida said: "I think this is a good chance to teach (him) about the degree of difficulty of MMA, I want to teach him that."
That WVR has abandoned its generally metered approach to building its prospects in favor of making Ishii's debut a guaranteed attraction is interesting, especially when coupled with the fact that PR director Takahiro Kokuho also mentioned that Sengoku could undergo a name change beginning with the New Year show. Rumors have swirled since the promotion's inception last year regarding possible deals with big time Japanese networks such as Fuji TV, but nothing has come to fruition. (Sengoku is currently partnered with TV Tokyo, the smallest of the Tokyo stations, though that deal is said to expire soon.) The signing of Ishii was thought to be a significant step toward acquiring a major broadcast deal, or possibly an indication that a deal was already in the works - could an announcement finally be on the horizon?