("The fine print specifically says no opponents with the word "cat" in their nicknames.")
Yoshihiro Akiyama‘s proclamation that he may not agree to face Chris Leben at UFC 116 made me think that maybe Japanese MMA fans are right about him when they say he has no Budo.
Now before you put on your mean mug and warm up your angry typing fingers to tell me I’m an idiot, hear me out.
Yesterday, we quoted Wanderlei Silva who said that he was prepared to fight Akiyama with a blown out knee and even took the weekend to decide whether or not he could still fight with broken ribs. Then on the other side of the coin we have Akiyama, who jumps on the Internet to voice his displeasure about having only ten days to prepare for Leben and threatens to pull out of the event since he has nothing to gain by beating a gatekeeper like "The Crippler".
A) It’s Chris Leben. He isn’t going to utilize the Rubber Guard to try to submit you with an omoplata, for Christ’s sake, he’s going to want to stand and bang, just like Wand would have done. The only difference is he’s a southpaw, so make your sparring partner switch stances and get to work.
B) Taking a new opponent on short notice would do something for you, Yoshi. Can I call you Yoshi? I feel weird calling you Sexyama to your face. Anyway, it would prove that you’re a fighter who doesn’t care who he fights and that you’re cut from the same cloth as the champions in the sport. It would also improve the image you’ve created for yourself by telling fans you make no excuses and will fight whomever is put in front of you.
If you have followed Sexyama’s career at all, you know that there is more to it than just sultry photographs and fashion shows. He has been involved in a lot of BS over the years, not least of which were two notable greasing incidents.
For those who are unfamiliar with the backstories, in 2003 Akiyama defeated three opponents at the World Judo Championships in Japan and was accused by the trio of wearing a gi that had been oiled to prevent his adversaries from gripping onto his sleeves.
Here’s the synopsis of the incident from the Taipei Times:
"A dispute over a slippery judo jacket may have denied hosts Japan a perfect ending to the world judo championships although they have heaved themselves back from a disastrous performance two years ago. The International Judo Federation (IJF) ruled out a breach of fair play in the case of middleweight Yoshihiro Akiyama, whose slippery jacket, or judogi, has drawn protests from France, Mongolia and Turkey. Akiyama was forced to change his judogi, which was suspected of being waxed to make it difficult for his opponents to grip. He had beaten opponents from the three countries to reach an 81kg light middleweight semifinal on Friday. Wearing a reserve jacket, the Asian Games champion narrowly lost to German Florian Wanner who eventually won the title."
Three years later, Akiyama was back at it again against Kazushi Sakuraba at K-1 – Premium 2006 Dynamite!! Although he didn’t wear his greasy gi, he did coat his body with body lotion, impeding "The Gracie Hunter" from grasping his limbs and body. Using a substance that was undetectable by ringside officials who checked him before the bout, as soon as he began to sweat, the grease became slippery on his skin and gave him an illegal advantage.
Here’s a video rundown of the fight and the backlash:
(Video courtesy YouTube)
Now, I don’t know about the loaded glove conspiracy theory, although it does seem odd that his glove was different than the other one he was wearing, but for him to say he didn’t know that applying copious amounts of body lotion prior to a match was illegal seems like a cop out.
Having skirted the rules twice in Japan, the country turned its back on the Zainichi Korean (ethnic Korean born and raised in Japan). Japanese MMA fans saw him as a heel and rooted against him from then on.
A feud with Kazuo Misaki, who, like many Japanese fighters and fans, detested Akiyama’s cheating ways and disregard for the fans came to a head when the pair met at the Yarennoka! 2007 New Year’s eve show. Misaki took the bout via head kick knockout, but the result was later overturned when it was determined that Akiyama’s hand was on the canvas at the point of impact.
(Video courtesy YouTube/Gengis Con)
In his post-fight interview Misaki conveyed the following message to Akiyama, much to the delight of the Japanese crowd:
"You have betrayed the fans and the kids by the way you compete. Please fight for the kids and for your fans…not yourself."
I guess Misaki’s advice didn’t sink in.