During the media tour for the upcoming UFC Fight Night 52, the UFC has announced that three Japanese MMA legends with return to the promotion for the card. Former Pride FC and K-1 Hero’s champions Takanori Gomi, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto will all meet undetermined opponents at the event, which takes place Sept. 20 at the Saitama Super Arena outside Tokyo.
For a time, Gomi was considered the best lightweight in the sport. In 2005, he defeated Tatsuya Kawajiri, Luiz Azeredo and Hayato Sakurai to win the Pride 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix and claim the promotion’s inaugural title. He defended the belt once over Marcus Aurelio before the company was purchased by Zuffa. Gomi also holds victories over Mitsuhiro Ishida, Duane Ludwig, Tyson Griffin and Ralph Gracie. “The Fireball Kid” last fought at UFC 172 and scored a decision victory over Isaac Vallie-Flagg.
After an extensive career in judo, Akiyama made his MMA debut in 2004. In 2006, he defeated Taiei Kin, Kestutis Smirnovas and Melvin Manhoef to claim the Hero’s 2006 Light Heavyweight Grand Prix. He quickly became an anti-hero on the Japanese MMA scene due to a greasing incident against the legendary Kazushi Sakuraba. In 2009, he signed with the UFC and went 1-4. He dropped four-straight bouts after winning his debut over Alan Belcher.
Yamamoto won the Hero’s 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix despite being a natural bantamweight. During his run, he defeated Royler Gracie, Caol Uno and Genki Sudo. From 2003-2007, “Kid” was widely considered one of the best sub-lightweight fighters. In 2011, he signed with the UFC, but he has yet to taste victory in the Octagon after three attempts.
In the main event of UFC Fight Night 52, former K-1 World Grand Prix champion Mark Hunt will take on former IFL champion Roy Nelson.