Ishii considers future in mixed martial arts

Kyodo News

Judoka Satoshi Ishii, who won the men’s over 100-kg gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, was vague on Tuesday about his intentions to quit the sport and become a professional mixed martial artist.

The 21-year-old Ishii held a press conference at his school’s dormitory at Kokushikan University the same day, but only went as far as to say that he might consider a move to mixed martial arts.

“The first order of business for me is graduating,” said Ishii two days after telling Kazuo Yoshimura, chief technical director of the All Japan Judo Federation, that he intends to quit judo.

“I still have time, so I will have to think about what I really want to do. I’m interested in possibly switching to mixed martial arts in the future.”

Despite his indecision, several sources familiar with the judoka have said that he has already made up his mind to quit. The judo federation has already said it intends to drop Ishii from its plans in preparation for the 2012 London Games.

Ishii admitted he does not plan on competing in the 2009 Judo World Championships.

“For a while, I have been thinking of not competing in next year’s world championships and freely doing what I want to do,” said Ishii, adding that he is not concerned about being dropped from the judo federation’s list of top-ranked athletes.

Men’s judo coach Hitoshi Saito, who attended the press conference, said, “First we want him to graduate. Of course, I am also thinking about his future course but he is free to decide for himself.”

The federation’s rules prohibit judoka from signing a professional contract in any other martial art, including pro wrestling and the K-1 mixed martial arts event.

Ishii became the youngest national judo champion in 2006 at 19 years, 4 months. He won his second national title this year and took the gold in Beijing in his first Olympic appearance.