• Kyodo News


Heavyweight judo Olympic champion Satoshi Ishii said Monday he will debut with Japan-based Sengoku, possibly kicking off his career as a mixed martial artist as early as August.

The news came after the 22-year-old former judoka had reportedly been in negotiations to join the U.S.-based Ultimate Fighting Championship — known for its no-holds-barred brutality. Ishii is set to sign a contract with Sengoku in the coming days.

Ishii, who won the gold in the men’s over 100-kg category at the Beijing Olympics, said he chose Sengoku instead of its U.S. counterpart, which is staged in an octagonal caged ring, because he wants to appeal to Japanese fans first.

“I became convinced that I should show my ability in Japan first to the fans here who are rooting for me,” Ishii said. “I chose Sengoku because they were the first to contact me,” he said, adding that he would like to join UFC sometime in the future.

Ishii, who had been training in the United States recently, said he will be ready to mix it up with anyone, regardless of who he faces in his debut match.

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