Yoshihiro Akiyama is coming to the UFC. Here’s a good story written by By Song Woong-ki of the Korean Herald.
Yoshihiro Akiyama, known to Koreans as Chu Seung-hun, has announced he will use his Japanese name in his UFC debut.
“If it were up to me, I would like to use both my Korean and Japanese names in my UFC debut, but I am now a citizen of Japan so I will use my Japanese name,” he said during a news conference at the Millennium Hilton in central Seoul yesterday.
“I will present both the Korean and Japanese flag to represent who I am as I have done all along.”
After much speculation by both fans and the media, Asia’s most celebrated mixed martial arts fighter has finally found a new nesting ground in the heavyweight of MMA organizations.
The six-bout contract Chu signed with the UFC officially ends the fourth-generation Korean-Japanese judoka’s five-year relationship with the Japan-based FEG (Fighting and Entertainment Group), where he began his MMA career in the group’s K-1 promotion.
Since announcing his departure from the promotion last year, speculation has swirled, citing contract disputes with the organization and Chu’s focus swaying toward other endeavors such as product endorsements and television appearances on Korean variety shows.
Before officially signing with the UFC, the 33-year-old had been under intense scrutiny from both fans and media for his stalled return to the ring. His last two bouts were quick submission wins last summer against Katsuyori Shibata and Masanori Tonooka. The two Japanese fighters were considered second-tier opponents that Chu beat rather lethargically .
“My personal philosophy in life and my combat mentality has always been firmly grounded in the notion of challenging myself — to push myself to become better with each fight,” Chu said.
“I have never evaded matches with fighters who are highly rated. It is not in my best interests to do so either professionally or personally.”
A controversial figure in Japan, Chu has been vilified by Japanese MMA fans and labeled “Lucifer” after the incident at the K-1 Premium 2006 Dynamite event in which opponent Kazushi Sakuraba complained that Chu was “slippery,” and Chu later admitted that he had been using body lotion which he said was to treat his dry skin. Though Chu had won the match, it was later given a no contest ruling.
After racking up impressive wins against top-rated fighters like Melvin Menhoeuf and a brutal knock-out of Denis Kang, Chu gained immense popularity in Korea. But what shot his fame into the stratosphere was his appearance on “Golden Aquarium,” a variety talk show on MBC where celebrities answer candid questions about their personal life. On the show, he displayed a softer side never revealed to the public and even showed off his singing talent by crooning a Korean ballad.
His appearance proved a PR success and endorsement deals poured in. Chu became a spokesman for Kia’s Lotze line of compact sedans, starred in commercials for banana milk and Hite.
“My extracurricular activities outside the world of MMA have not hindered my training regimen at all,” he said.
“My focus is always on training and becoming a better fighter. The popularity I’ve gained from my TV appearances is just icing on the cake.”
Chu is set to enter the UFC octagon this summer. The UFC boasts the deepest talent pool of all the world’s MMA promotions, and remains the only profitable U.S.-based organization of its kind, as promotions like Elite XC, Affliction and Strikeforce have struggled.