Kazushi Sakuraba “The Gracie Hunter”

  • DOB: July 14th, 1969
  • Nickname: The Gracie Hunter
  • Gymnasium: Takada Dojo/Laughter7
  • Location: Tokyo, Japan
  • Martial Arts Information: 26-17(MMA 1-1-4(BJJ)
  • Notable Championships: N/A

Kazushi Sakuraba’s professional wrestling aspirations

Kazushi Sakuraba grew up with aspirations to be a professional wrestler. Each week, he would religiously watch New Japan Professional Wrestling to see his favourite wrestler Tiger Masks. 

Sakuraba would learn all the Tiger Masks Mangas and dream of flying across the ring like his idol. His sole focus was on turning into a professional wrestler and was contemplating quitting college at 15 to pursue his desires.

However his household requested him to rethink this and as a substitute exit for his college’s beginner wrestling group. Then he would have already got wrestling expertise to pursue professional wrestling after he completed college.

Kazushi Sakuraba would excel at beginner wrestling and have become certainly one of Japan’s greatest younger freestyle wrestlers. Rating 2nd within the nation and incomes a spot on the Chuo College wrestling group.

He would proceed to achieve success on the collegiate degree profitable the East Japan Freshman Championship. In his ultimate 12 months of wrestling, Kaz would rank 4th within the nation.

Kazushi Sakuraba turns into a professional wrestler

After conserving his promise to his household to complete college, Sakuraba would start his professional wrestling coaching. Studying underneath professional wrestler and catch wrestling professional Billy Robinson. Additionally Japanese wrestlers Nobuhiko Takada and Yoji Anjo, who’re each identified for having MMA careers.

Professional wrestling coaching was brutal as Kazushi would prepare a number of occasions a day and be bodily overwhelmed down. Studying a shoot type of professional wrestling, whereas having to carry out 1000’s of calisthenics and run miles on daily basis.

The primary wrestling promotion that Sakuraba labored for was the Union of Wrestling Forces Worldwide(UWFL) from 1993-1996. 

After the UWFL closed its doorways in 1996, Sakuraba moved to the promotion Kingdom Professional Wrestling in 1997. This promotion would solely final a 12 months because of the rise of MMA in Japan.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s entry into MMA

Sakuraba initially had his first expertise in MMA, when he fought UFC vet Kimo Leopoldo. Though many thought of that the struggle was fastened it was by no means confirmed.

He additionally had a blended guidelines match towards Dutch kickboxer Rene Rooze that he received by toe maintain. However because the bout technically wasn’t MMA, the win didn’t go on his report.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s 2nd professional struggle could be at UFC Japan towards future ATT coach Marcos Silveira. This was a controversial match, as a result of referee Huge John McCarthy stopped the bout prematurely. Ending the bout in a no contest.

The 2 would have one other match that night time, which Sakuraba received by arm bar within the first spherical.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s early Satisfaction run

After his two bouts within the UFC, Sakuraba would make his debut on the Satisfaction 2 present in Yokohama, Japan. Beating UFC vet Vernon “Tiger” White by armbar.

Being native to Japan, the followers of Satisfaction shortly embraced Kazushi Sakuraba because the face of the promotion. He would win his second bout with the promotion at Satisfaction 3 beating former UFC champion Carlos Newton by kneebar.

His 4th struggle could be a tough struggle towards Allan Goes that will finish in a draw. Sakuraba would win his fourth struggle in Satisfaction beating one other former UFC champion in Vitor Belfort by resolution.

He would proceed discovering success as he would go on to beat Ebenezer Fontes Braga and Anthony Macias. Sakuraba was shortly turning into one of many largest stars in MMA.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s early bouts with the Gracie’s

Kazushi Sakuraba would face the largest check of his younger profession at Satisfaction 8. The place he would face Royler Gracie, who was extremely favored going into the bout.

Sakuraba would stun Royler as he repeatedly kicked Royler’s legs and would go into his guard. As a substitute he would play to the group and win the hanging battle.

The struggle would finish in controversy because the ref stopped the bout after Sakuraba locked in a kimura. Royler and his household protested, as a result of he clearly by no means tapped.

This made Kazushi enemy #1 to the Gracie household they usually vowed to beat him.

His subsequent bout could be within the opening spherical of the 2000 Satisfaction GP towards Man Metzger. He would win the match by TKO to arrange a match with UFC champion Royce Gracie.

Earlier than their struggle, the Gracie household demanded that the foundations be modified for this bout. They demanded that the match be limitless 15 minute bouts till a winner was decided.

Their match would go for 90 minutes, the place Kazushi Sakuraba defended most of Royce’s sub makes an attempt, whereas touchdown punches and takedowns. After the 90 minute mark, Royce’s nook threw within the towel.

Kazushi was now 2-0 towards the Gracie’s, however he couldn’t proceed the event on account of exhaustion.

Kazushi Sakuraba turns into The Gracie Hunter

The Gracie household was nonetheless seeking to even the rating with Kazushi Sakuraba. They might ship Renzo Gracie to struggle the Japanese MMA star at Satisfaction 10.

Renzo had higher hanging than his different kin, however Sakuraba’s wrestling and hanging had been higher. He would play an identical sport towards Renzo and would win many of the struggle till locking on a kimura.

As soon as he locked on the submission, they’d fall to the bottom. Renzo’s arm was clearly damaged, however didn’t faucet and the referee was pressured to cease the struggle. Placing Sakuraba up 3-0 towards the Gracie household.

Kazushi would peat Shannon Ritch by achilles lock earlier than assembly Ryan Gracie at Satisfaction 12. As soon as once more, he dominated one other Gracie and would win the bout by unanimous resolution.

Together with his fourth win towards the Gracie’s, Sakuraba earned the nickname, “The Gracie Hunter.”

Kazushi Sakuraba’s decline in Satisfaction

After his win towards Ryan Gracie, the Gracie Hunter would face Wanderlei Silva for the primary time. This could be a brutal KO loss for Sakuraba that will mark a decline in his time in Satisfaction.

He would bounce again with a submission win towards Quinton Jackson and face Silva in a rematch. This time for the Satisfaction Middleweight Championship.

Although the group was behind him, Kazushi Sakuraba would undergo one other brutal loss to Wanderlei. This could be adopted up by a tough TKO loss to Mirko Cro Cop.

Throughout the finish of Sakuraba’s run in Satisfaction, he would go 6-6 within the promotion. 5 of the losses had been by devastating knockout.

The tip of Sakuraba’s MMA profession

The Gracie Hunter was a shell of himself within the later years of his MMA profession. Riddled with accidents and harm from over 3 many years of wars.

Sakuraba would struggle in numerous promotions between 2006 and 2015. From Ok-1, Heroes, Dream, and Rizin.

He would lose 5 in a row earlier than retiring from MMA after a TKO loss in 2015 to Shinya Aoki.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s return to professional wrestling

In the direction of the tip of Kazushi Sakuraba’s MMA profession, he would return to his old flame, professional wrestling. He would make his return to New Japan Professional Wrestling for the primary time in 20 years.

Kazushi could be in numerous packages for the corporate between 2012 and 2016. Typically performing in tag group matches and most notably feuding with MMA legend Minoru Suzuki.

The 2 would feud all through 2014 and would meet at Wrestle Kingdom 9 in entrance of 50k folks. 

Sakuraba is presently working for one more Japanese professional wrestling promotion referred to as Professional Wrestling Noah.

Kazushi Sakuraba UFC Corridor of Famer

In 2017, Sakura was honored by the UFC by being inducted into the UFC Corridor of Fame. A a lot deserved honor that each fighters and followers agreed on.

Kazushi Sakuraba creates Quintet

Since retiring from MMA, Sakuraba has gone on to create the grappling promotion Quintet. A event primarily based grappling occasion the place totally different groups compete towards one another to crown a champion.

Sakuraba has competed at 4 Quintet occasions and is the group captain of his group. He had additionally beforehand competed in 3 different grappling matches towards Renzo Gracie, Wanderlei Silva, and Frank Shamrock.

Kazushi Sakuraba’s legacy

Kazushi “The Gracie Hunter” Sakuraba is among the most beloved figures within the historical past of MMA. He’s a showman with unimaginable means that made tens of millions instantaneous followers of him.

Sakuraba might haven’t received each bout, however he put his soul into each match and gave it his all. For this reason he’s an all time nice, who remains to be beloved by MMA followers the world over.

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