In Japan, I guess, to some, Bob Sapp is stil considered to be "bankable".
Earlier this year, Sapp suddenly made a comeback into the national spotlight with couple of TV commercials. In addition, he came up with a book which was, basically a heavy criticism of the former FEG / K-1 head Sadaharu Tanikawa. Earlier in the year, Sapp even did one bout at New Japan Pro-Wrestling as well.
Yet, in terms of a real fight, apparently, even with all these "campaigns" he did in Japan, Sapp couldn't find a right fight except a special kick boxing rules bout in the Kumamoto prefecture.
Maybe, in the era when the Japanese MMA is not exactly doing well, the price tag of Sapp was no longer considered to be "bankable".
However, the fact is, just about 8,000 kilo meter away from Tokyo, in the place where not many sporting events take place, Sapp is still the fighter that is worth whatever the money he asks for.
Especially in a special situation like this one because this was a retirement bout of a PRIDE veteran Yosuke Nishijima.
And, this was not a MMA bout. Sapp fought a PRIDE veteran in a special kick boxing rules bout.
(Nishijima was not allowed to kick because he chose to wear boxing shoes)
Sounds quite strange right?
But when you look at the career of both Sapp and Nishijima its far from being ordinarily so I guess some could believe this was a good match-up.
Nishijima's official pro MMA record is 0-5.
Four out of all of his five pro MMA fights were in PRIDE. The other one was in K-1.
That's right. He didn't even win not a single bout in his pro MMA career. Yet he only fought in the big shows and that's because of his background.
Nishijima was a former pro boxer that held WBF world cruiserweight title.
Everyone in the combat sports knows that WBF doesn't really hold too much weight in the world of boxing but in the Japanese boxing world, there isn't many pro fighters at light-heavy, cruiser and heavyweight categories. Almost none.
So, Nishijima was a rare commodity to begin with. Even though Nishijima couldn't even capitalize on a chance to win the California State cruiserweight title, "world champion in boxing" was marketable in Japan at the time.
Nishijima was fortunate to be right place at the right time. Back then, PRIDE was getting bigger and bigger.
But at the same time, I believe it was unfortunate for Nishijima because a fair match-up was not exactly a top priority in PRIDE and that is why, right off the batt, Nishijima was thrown into sharks.
He faced much heavier Mark Hunt in a pro MMA debut, followed by Hidehiko Yoshida, Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos, and Phil Baroni. Then, after PRIDE was sold to UFC, Nishijima went to K-1, and he was TKO'd by Melvin Manhoef.
After Nishijima went winless in all five fights, in 2009, Nishijima tried kick boxing for the first time in his career, but again, he was thrown into a top gun, Peter Aerts. He was knocked down three times and eventually lost via KO. Nishijima stil got an another opportunity in New Year's Eve 2009, but again, he faced a very tough seasoned veteran, Ray Sefo. In this fight although he was knocked down once, Nishijima was able to take the fight to judges' score cards. It was somehow a morale victory for him but on paper Nishijima is still a winless in both MMA and kick boxing fights.
What he went through was quite different from Sapp.
Sure, Sapp had to take on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in his third pro MMA bout but besides that fight most of the time K-1 gave him relatively inexperienced and smaller opponents. The promoter was willing to build Sapp's career. But that was back then and now, its completely a different situation for Sapp. Ever since he lost to Ikuhisa Minowa in DREAM 9 he went 1-15 in MMA bouts.
Nishijima is born and raised in Tokyo so I don't exactly know why he did a retirement bout in Kumamoto but all I know for sure is, he found the promoter that was willing to spend money to bring in Sapp to give Nishijima a last chance to get W on his professional record.
And that is what happened.
Nishijima knocked down "The Beast" with a body shot. Sapp stood back up but he finished the business with body shots followed by couple of right hooks.
So, Nishijima is going out of combat sport, finally, with one W. While Sapp is now winless in last 8 kick boxing fights. Not to mention winless in last 12 MMA fights.
On paper, at this point, theres is nothing really impressive about these two fighters but, I guess, for the fans that used to enjoy the Japanese fight scene about seven to ten years ago, this was still an interesting and somehow exciting bout.
Sunday, November 17th, 2013
At Mashiki-machi Gymnasium Main Arena, Kumamoto, Japan
Special Kickboxing Rules Heavyweight 3 min / 3R
Yosuke Nishijima (Japan / Freelance) vs Bob Sapp (USA / Team Beast)
Winner: 1R 2'36" Yosuke Nishijima via KO (body shot followed by hooks)
Report by Shu Hirata
Photo courtesy of Bout Review (www.boutreview.com)