“Men’s GP is going to be same (format) as last year. We are doing six opening round bouts in fall then on December 29th, quarter-semi’s with two more additional ‘endorsed’ fighters. I am hoping to do this at Kron Gracie’s weight class but even if he decided to not fight this year, I want to do this at either 65 kg or 70 kg, and the flyweight can be next year, is what I am thinking.”
This is what RIZIN head Nobuyuki Sakakibara told the reporters after the press conference held earlier this month in Tokyo.
Its not so difficult to understand and guess what Sakakibara is thinking.
RIZIN already did the GP at under 100 kg and at the open-weight divisions.
For now they are done introducing big guys.
In these two GP’s, RIZIN was able to provide opportunities to Fedor Emelianenko’s recommended fighters. Also, succeeded in signing the former Sumo star Kaido “Baruto” Hooverlson, which did attract the attention of the Japanese general public. “Baruto” had to be one of the main reasons why RIZIN secured Fuji TV deal on December 29th and 31st of 2016.
Now, RIZIN is ready to push Kron Gracie and the flyweight.
But in the mind of Sakakibara, obviously, Gracie comes first.
Which does make sense though.
A son of Rickson Gracie already fought in four times in Japan.
Three times in RIZIN, and he won all of them.
UFC/ PRIDE veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri, Bellator / DREAM veteran Hideo Tokoro, and national wrestling champ Erson Yamamoto, a nephew of Norifumi KID Yamamoto.
All against notable and established fighters.
But RIZIN must start thinking ROI.
They need something big for Kron Gracie. That probably is the reason why Sasakibara is saying, even if no Kron, RIZIN would still go forward with GP at either 65 or 70 kg. This way, RIZIN can create the “GP champion” to set up a big fight against Kron Gracie.
Also Japanese stars at 65 kg & under, like Kawajiri, Tokoro, and Yachi, aren’t getting any younger.
Sure, Japan’s flyweight has full of potentials.
With an addition of Kyoji Horiguchi, recently, the flyweight division is the hottest topic in the Japanese MMA. But Horiguchi is still practically unknown among the general TV viewers of Japan.
Therefore, Sakakibara is probably thinking, a win or two and a PR time are necessary.
Same for Yuki Motoya, the former DEEP flyweight champ that is taking on Horiguchi in the next RIZIN show at Yokohama Arena.
The other Japanese notables at 125 lbs & Under, like Tenshin Nasukawa and Kizaemon Saiga, could use three or four more MMA fights as well.
So, what Sasakibara said does make sense.
This year’s men’s GP will be at either featherweight or lightweight, and the flyweight GP can wait till year 2018.
RIZIN 2017 IN YOKOHAMA
Sunday, April 16th, 2017
At Yokohama Arena, Kanagawa, Japan
Doors Open – 13:30
Fight Starts – 15:00
Confirmed Cards (Subject to Change):
Men’s 49 Kg & Under Bout 10 min / 1R, 5 min / 2R
Kyoji Horiguchi (Japan / ATT) vs Yuki Motoya (Japan / CB IMPACT)
Women’s 49 Kg & Under Bout 5 mim / 3R
RENA (Japan / Cesar Gym) vs Dora Perjes (Hungary / Bardosi Martial Arts Acade)
Men’s Featherweight (65.8 kg) But 10 min / 1R, 5 min / 2R
Tatsuya Kawajiri (Japan / T-BLOOD) vs Anthony Birchak (10th Planet Tucson)
Men’s Flyweight (56.7 kg) Bout 3 min / 3R
Teshin Nasukawa (Japan / Team Tenshin) vs Francesco Ghigliotti (Italy / Sempre Avanti)
120 kg & Under Bout 10 min / 1R, 5 min / 2R
Satoshi Ishii (Japan / Independent) vs Heath Herring (USA / Las Vegas Combat Club)
Men’s Lightweight (79.3 Kg) Bout 10 min / 1R, 5 min / 2R
Yusuke Yachi (Japan / KRAZY BEE) vs Daron Cruickshank (USA / Michigan Top Team)
Women’s 90 Kg & Under bout 5 min / 3R
KING Reina (Japan / Reversal Gym Tachikawa ALPHA) vs Jazzy Gabert (Germany / Independent)
Women’s 48 Kg & Under Bout 5 min / 3R
Kanna Asakura (Japan / Paraestra Matsudo) vs Alesander Tochevea (Bulgaria / Desant MMA & astos BJJ Varna)
Women’s 48 Kg & Under Bout 5 min / 3R
Saori Ishioka (Japan / Zendo-kai) vs Bestare Kicaj (Switzerland / 360 Martial Arts)
Men’s 58 Kg & Under Bout 10 min / 1R, 5 min / 5R
Kizaemon Saiga (Japan / Me, We) vs Seiichiro Ito (Japan / Reversal Gym Yokohama Ground Slam)
report by Shu Hirata
photo courtesy of Bout Review (www.boutreview.com)