The Ultimate Fighting Championship today announced that it has signed top-ten middleweight contender Yoshihiro Akiyama to an exclusive promotional contract that will see him step into the UFC Octagon for the first time this summer.
“I’m excited to bring Akiyama into the UFC and I can see him making an immediate impact in the middleweight division,” said UFC President Dana White. “Besides his great judo and submission game, he’s a finisher, and UFC fans are going to love watching him because he always shows up to fight.”
Born of Korean descent in Osaka, Japan, Akiyama first made his name in the international sports world as a decorated black belt in judo who collected numerous titles, including a Gold medal in the 2002 Asian Games.
By 2004, Akiyama sought a new challenge in the world of mixed martial arts, and he made an immediate impact on December 31, 2004 when he debuted with a first round submission win in his bout against former world heavyweight boxing champion Francois Botha.
Over the next three years, the 5 foot 10 Akiyama built a stellar reputation as one of the best fighters in the world, submitting highly-touted knockout artist Melvin Manhoef, knocking out UFC middleweight Denis Kang, and engaging in battles with the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba and Kazuo Misaki. In 2008, the 33-year old continued his run of excellence, submitting Katsuyori Shibata and Masanori Tonooka to up his stellar MMA record to 12-1 with two no-contests, with none of his bouts going the distance.
Press conferences in Japan and Korea will take place in the coming days; details to be announced shortly.
No opponent or date has been determined for Akiyama’s UFC debut.