Sakuraba Still Fighting

'Popular Fighter Sakuraba Still Fighting On New Year's Eve!'

Shu Hirata

FEG 'K-1 PREMIUM 2006 Dynamite!!'
Saturday, December 31st, 2006
At Kyocera Dome Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Doors Open: TBA
Fight Starts: TBA

photo by Yoshinori Ihara ( // PIC: Kazushi Sakuraba undoubtedly is the biggest star in the history of the Japanese MMA. Is he ready to appoint his successor on New Year's Eve?

It was just back in the end of September, when Kazushi Sakuraba, during a practice, began feeling dizzy, vomited, and was taken to the hospital. It was just a month ago.

On that date, after MRI scans and the whole nine yards, Sakuraba was diagnosed as having no brain damage or abnormalities, but apparently he sustained damage to his vertebrobasilar system, which is responsible for blood flow to the posterior region of the brain. Sounds serious. On top of that, at a press conference, FEG head Sadaharu Tanikawa mentioned that this 'came as a result of repeated blows to the head and neck, dating as far back as Sakuraba's collegiate wrestling career.' Sakuraba was hospitalized for three days. Normally, when a professional athlete is in this type of circumstance, more than likely, the first thing he or she would do, is to rest for a while. Three to six months, perhaps, even a year to see how the neck and head are feeling.

But that is not the case for the very popular star Kazushi Sakuraba. This man was the biggest star in PRIDE, but he just made a switch to K-1.

'My stamina is 80%. But in two weeks, I will be back.' Sakuraba was on his usual mode at a press conference held in Tokyo late last week. He apparently began training in the middle of this month. 'On New Year's Eve, this is going to be an exciting fight.' Then he talked about how he received a black belt during his training camp at Chute Boxe Academy in Brazil, and even proposed, 'I think fighting with a gi would be very interesting.' Obviously Sakuraba, at least, got his confidence back. He basically sent a message to Akiyama that he can beat him, even on his own turf. However it doesn't mean he is taking Akiyama lightly. Sakuraba was at the ringside when Akiyama won his HERO'S middleweight title by taking out Melvin Manhoef with an armbar. 'Not a decision, a black and white result, taken by ippon. That was a good win.' He knows he is taking on a very tough opponent, perhaps, a fighter currently at the height of his professional career. Yes, Akiyama just won 8 straight fights, took the inaugural HERO'S title. It's a perfect timing for this match-up. Well, at least for Akiyama, K-1, and for the fans. What Tanikawa said, at a press conference said it all, 'This match-up is IN season.'

For Sakuraba, this can't be the best decision in the world. However, he is stepping into that ring on December 31st. Why? Maybe he is feeling OK and wants to prove that he is still belongs up there with top dogs. Or maybe he is feeling responsible because of a signing bonus he received from K-1. Who knows? Perhaps, Sakuraba still has this strong sense of being a pro-wrestler, and this is to prove that, as a situation, you are the toughest son of a bitch on earth, ridiculously invulnerable. A HERO. Maybe he, as a true professional, he is just trying to play the role of 'Kazushi Sakuraba.'

Then what is the role for this fight? Passing a torch? We'll find out on New Year's Eve.


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