Welcome to another issue of JMMA Monday. This is a weekly blog series that discusses the big and small stories around Japanese MMA.
This week’s blog is split into two parts. The first half will see us discuss the recent news around Tofiq Musayev, and the second half will talk about Shooto Japan.
Another One Bites The Dust
Just about a week ago, we learned that Tofiq Musayev had departed the RIZIN roster to fight in Bellator. This continues the bleeding of international talent that the promotion has seen over the past two years – although we’ll get into how this isn’t really their fault.
Prior pickups include Manel Kape going to the UFC, and Kyoji Horiguchi making the move to Bellator as well. In both instances, the fighter was recognized as the promotion’s champion at the time of the move happening.
These losses are big for the RIZIN roster, but it’s hard to criticize them given the spot they’re in. Japan as a country has been quite restrictive during the COVID-19 pandemic – at least more so than most of the world. Because of this, international talent has been almost completely shut out of the country.
RIZIN was able to get Musayev one fight in 2021, competing at their Tokyo Dome card. The promotion’s plans to bring in a ton of international fighters on New Year’s Eve were stopped by the Omicron variant, as the country put in place a restriction on all non-citizens entering the country. That restriction was recently extended to the end of February 2022, and could of course be extended again in the future.
From a fighter standpoint, it only makes sense to move to a promotion like Bellator which operates in the United States. When looking strictly from the perspective of getting a fight, it’s the right call to make.
Musayev was looking out for himself with this move. And it’s not really RIZIN’s fault that this is happening, but it’s just another way the COVID-19 pandemic has caused struggles for the scene. Just like RIZIN has had to do for all of 2020 and 2021, it looks like 2022 will see them utilize talent from Japan strictly.
Quick Thoughts On Shooto Japan’s Return
I was lucky enough to catch Shooto Japan’s first event of the year on Sunday. The 10-fight card included a fight to crown the new Pacific Rim Bantamweight Champion and had numerous prospects on the card.
If you want to read a report on the event, I broke down all 10 fights here. I also wrote down some thoughts on the show:
Before the event, I was informed by my friend Jin about how Rinya Nakamura and Sho Usami Patrick were fighters sponsored by entertainment company LDH.
This company is best known for male idol groups Exile but manages numerous notable musical acts in Japan like m-flo or the now-disbanded E-girls. In other words, they’re quite well known but for no reason related to MMA.
Both guys were picked as sponsors by the company through a show that aired on Abema. Their final two picks were these guys – and for good reason. Patrick is a solid fighter with a background in boxing. Nakamura has a well-documented history as a successful freestyle wrestler on the world stage. They both picked up first-round finish wins on this card and walked away as the biggest storyline from the event, especially after a somewhat sleepy main event bout didn’t come off as too exciting.
It’s weird to see such a huge company get into MMA. And from a personal standpoint, it’s wild to see the worlds of music and combat sports in Japan cross over. The last time we saw this was when Kamen Joshi idol Nanaka Kawamura had an eight-fight pro run in MMA, including a RIZIN appearance against then-Krazy Bee talent AI.
It was neat to see women’s talent like Mina Kuroba, Miku Nakamura, and even the returning Hisae company. Unfortunately, all of their fights were quite one-sided matchups, so it’s not like there was much of an expectation for those bouts besides what we got.
Honorable mentions for the card are Jo Arai and Keiichiro Kudo, who both scored solid finish wins within a round.
Other Notes From This Week
- Hot off her New Year’s Eve win over RENA, Park Si-woo has been booked to face Aira Koga at DEEP Jewels 36 on March 12th. The big win in RIZIN broke a two-fight skid for Park, and she has the chance to build on that momentum here.
- Shooto Japan will hold its second event of the year on March 21st at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan. Two fights have been booked for the card. Early in the week, it was announced that win streaks would collide at welterweight when Yamato Nishikawa faces Sotaro Yamada. On Sunday, Tatsuya Ando vs. Ryo Okada was also announced.
- Undefeated flyweight super-prospect Tatsuro Taira has reportedly signed with Iridium Sports Agency. That’s a big step in the right direction if he wants to sign with the UFC (which he really does want to).
- Pancrase alum Ayaka Miura lost a title fight to ONE Championship fighter Xiong Jing Nan on Friday. Lower on the card, other JMMA fighters Shuya Kamikubo and Senzo Ikeda walked away with wins. A full report can be read here.
- Numbers! Sogo-Kaku’s RIZIN 33 thoughts were published earlier this week, showing some interesting insights about the event. I recommend giving it a read. Here’s the link.