One of the best featherweights in the world might be free and clear to sign with a major North American organization soon. At least that's what all the signs are pointing to. Hatsu Hioki, who until yesterday was the Shooto lightweight champion along with the Sengoku featherweight champion, is apparently a free agent now and will be attending UFC 131.
A few days ago, Bloody Elbow's Forrest Lynn stated on the BE Radio show that Hioki had been released from Sengoku and was negotiating with the UFC. This has not been reported anywhere else. However earlier today, Nightmare of Battle reported that Hioki had vacated his Shooto title. And just a little while ago. Robert Sargent of MMA Rising tweeted this:
Shu Hirata says that Hatsu Hioki will be in attendance at UFC 131 in Vancouver on June 11th.
Hioki is 11-1-1 in his last 13 fights, with his only loss being an extremely controversial decision that he dropped to Michihiro Omigawa in late 2009. He picked up the biggest win of his career with a sound decision victory over Marlon Sandro at Sengoku: Soul of Fight on December 30th, 2010, and is currently the number 2 featherweight in the world according to the USA Today/SBN Consensus Rankings.
Could the best non-Zuffa featherweight out there be close to signing with the UFC? I certainly hope so.