Nobuyuki Sakakibara talks about new scenario in Japan, sumo fighters and Josh Barnett - Photo: Bruno Massami

This week the most important promotion in Japanese MMA Rizin Fighting Federation is back for their first event of 2018 which takes place in Fukuoka City, at Marine Messe.

With a total of 5 events are planned for this year, the promotion continues to look for opportunities to add new talent to their ranks.

After seeing Bellator signed with big names like Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Crocop, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson and others, the man in charge Nobuyuki Sakakibara has revealed his new strategy for fighter recruitment moving forward.

“I’m just looking for new talents. We don’t [operate] like UFC and Bellator when recruiting fighters it’s not all about names, we will do things differently. It’s not confirmed yet but I’m considering doing a Heavyweight Grand Prix next year. And Rizin still opened to young and hungry fighters to perform in our ring.” told Sakakibara in a special interview to MMA Plus.

Using his events in 2018, the Rizin President wants to introduce to fans, a new upcoming heavyweights, like Croatian Mirko Crocop’s sparring partner Ante Delija, Brazilian former soccer goalkeeper, undefeated Ricardo Prasel from Curitiba, Ukranian striker Andrey Kovalev and veteran pro kickboxer, Jairzinho Rozenstruik during next Sunday’s event in Fukuoka.

“If you looking for a big opportunity, we are available. We still looking for young and new heavyweight stars, like Crocop, Nogueira, and Fedor in that prime at last Pride days. And I believe this guy is ready to shine.” analyze Sakakibara.

Calling all Sumo fighters, Josh Barnett is interest

Sakakibara has not just opened the door to young up and coming fighters, he is also plans to bring in established fighters. That’s is the case with former PRIDE and current UFC roster, Josh Barnett.

The former heavyweight champion is hugely popular in Japan, especially with PRIDE fans and Pro-Wresting audience, which has led to Sakakibara considering bringing Barnett back to Japan.

“It’s a possibility. We will see what happens. But I’m confident Josh can fight again here when is a contract with UFC expired.” says Sakakibara with a confidence.

Jim Ross
Sakakibara was interest in Josh Barnett (R) Photo: Ian Mosely/AXS TV

But the same scenario isn’t the same if the deal was about Sumo fighters in Rizin.

After he had shown an interest in the famous Sumo Wrestler Harumafuji, Rizin president admits difficulties to make a deal with Sumotori but will request a special help.

“It’s difficult to negotiate with him. But I’m close to Asashoryu (another famous Yokozuna) and I will ask for his help in this particular situation. We will see.

I’m just still looking around for new talents. If you are a talent sumo fighter, you have chance to fight here. And in Japan we always have a lot of talents to look.” ended Sakakibara