Looks like the big rumor of the day is Olympic Gold Medalist Satoshi Ishii possibly fighting in the UFC instead of DREAM.
It was a pretty big deal overseas earlier this year when Ishii announced he would forgo the 2012 Olympics to fight professionally in mixed martial arts. He was supposed to sign with DREAM and was expected to be a big draw in Japan. However, news stories are breaking in Japan today saying Ishii wants to fight in the UFC instead.
“I made up my mind finally. The UFC is where I fight. If I’m an unknown judo-ka, I will definitely built up MMA experiences in Japan first. However, I decided to use my title of the Judo gold medalist. I believe my name value will attract the UFC. I’m sorry that my indecisive and expressive behavior confused DREAM staff and fans.”
“I’m a white belt in MMA. I understand the possibility of starting from WEC.”
“I go to the US first, and work on contracting with the UFC. I plan to go next March for training at American Top Team.”
But will it happen?
Well, first of all, there’s the matter of money. As Zach Arnold pointed out, if Ishii were to sign with one of the Japan-based organizations, such as DREAM, he’ll likely be making in the high six-figures, however, if he fights in the US for the UFC, where no one knows nor cares who he is, that number will be dramatically lower. The questions are, is Ishii aware of that, and if so, is fighting in the world’s top MMA organization more important than money to Ishii?
Then, of course, you have to ask if Zuffa would even be interested. Ishii has no name value to the American fan base. He has no professional fights. Not exactly the winning formula the UFC is typically attracted to. However, Ishii could be a valuable asset to the UFC if they decide to make a strong push into the Japanese market. Earlier this year, they signed a deal to get back on TV in Japan, and their global expansion plans are no secret, so it’s certainly a possibility that’s a move they’ll make in the future.
So will it happen? I seriously doubt it, but if it does, it’s probably not going to happen until Ishii proves he’s capable of fighting at that level, and the UFC needs him to invade Japan, if they ever do.