Waru, a non-MMA anything goes fighting promotion emerges in Japan

A Japanese movie producer is promoting a variation on anything goes fighting called Waru with no submissions and no face punching on the ground, but otherwise anything goes.

Yamamoto Yoshihisa, a Japanese movie producer, has launched a new variation on anything goes fighting in Japan. VICE magazine did a profile on it, here's a taste:

Waru [bad boy] is a Japanese anything-goes fighting tournament started by movie producer and entrepreneur Yamamoto Yoshihisa. When it comes to organized fighting in Japan, it's about as rough as it gets-there's no pretty-boy posturing from the combatants and there are hardly any rules. Fighters can't bite, hit each other in the dick, or strike at the face when their opponents are down, but that's it. Submissions are forbidden and KOs pay top dollar, so that's the end goal; usually, "matches end up pretty much just like street fights with someone stepping in to break things up," according to Yamamoto. Waru is all about blood, sweat, and tears-as the red-stained rags used to mop the ring after bouts indicate.

Yamamoto started the tournament in dedication to his old karate mentor, the late Hisao Mak, the manga artist responsible for the comic Waru, from which the tournament takes its name. The producer was behind the the Takashi Miike film version of the comic, and Yamamoto looks more like an extra in one of Miike's over-the-top films than someone who would produce one, but there's an unexpected authenticity to his kitschy B-movie Yakuza appearance, something that lends him charisma and makes him both formidable and likeable.

Yamamoto currently has two favorite prodigies under his wing: Ken Moon and Sapp Nishinari, the latter of whom takes his second name from the area he hails from. Made up on one side by one of Japan's oldest and largest red-light districts and on the other by homeless shelters and cheap one-coin bars, Nishinari is probably the only place in Japan that can legitimately call itself a ghetto. It's an obvious breeding ground for the kind of street-hardened talent that Yamamoto is after for Waru.

Ken and Sapp may look, dress, and drink like they're auditioning for a Japanese version of Jersey Shore, but these guys are the real fucking deal. Ken has a face like a brick wall and is entirely unreserved about his motivations as a fighter. "The first time I saw someone using violence to pay the bills I knew that's what I wanted to do," he said. He originally came to the Yamane Dojo, where the two now train together, to challenge Sapp, a well-known Osaka talent at the time. In the end Sapp won, and the two have been tight ever since. As far as they're concerned, together they're now the best in the country.

This could be nothing or it could be something very interesting.

Two points: first, Japan's one of the developed world's great fight sport cultures and was the international center of MMA from 1998-2006 (the Pride era); second, the UFC's biggest fear and their real incentive to push for regulation of MMA was their desire to eliminate competition from anything goes promotions with different rule sets.

Actually make that three points, if Waru is a success, it could be a new path to MMA for Japanese fighters.

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