Olympic judoka-turned-fighter Satoshi Ishii will compete on home soil for the first time in nearly nine months this Saturday, Sept. 25, when he takes on fan favorite Ikuhisa Minowa in a last-minute match at "DREAM.16" in Nagoya, Japan. The promotion made the bout official at a press conference today, after the news had been leaked some hours before by sports site Sponichi.co.jp and confirmed on Minowa's blog.
The openweight affair now looks to be the biggest ratings draw on the star-starved card, as Japanese fans will get their first look at the 2008 Beijing gold-medalist since Ishii's unsuccessful MMA debut against Hidehiko Yoshida at "Dynamite!" last New Year's Eve. As officials from DREAM parent company Fighting and Entertainment Group have noted, ratings for the show's prime-time airing on the Tokyo Broadcasting System could be crucial to DREAM's survival.
The 23-year-old has spent the eight months since his loss to Yoshida traveling the globe and training with the likes of Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and Phil Baroni. In June, he picked up his first professional MMA win at "Xplosion," a small event in New Zealand, where he armbarred Kiwi kickboxer Tafa "Thumper" Misipati in under three minutes. Despite signing with World Victory Road over 15 months ago, Ishii has yet to compete under the Sengoku Raiden Championships banner; this will be his second bout "on loan" to FEG. Details on the specifics of the talent exchange were not discussed, though FEG CEO Sadaharu Tanikawa mentioned the possibility of DREAM sending fighters to SRC in the future.
"Super Hulk" champion Minowa had originally been slated to face fellow PRIDE Fighting Championships veteran James "The Colossus" Thompson. According to MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani on Twitter, Thompson and his team arrived in Japan yesterday and DREAM officials are seeking a replacement opponent for the English heavyweight.