Sakuraba has parlayed his remarkable mixed martial arts career
into almost universal adoration, his popularity crossing cultural,
racial and generational lines.
MMA royalty in every sense of the term, Sakuraba has always shown a
willingness to meet any challenge at any time. No other fighter
from Japan has had more of a lasting impact on the sport than “The
Gracie Hunter,” who paired immense physical talent with
once-in-a-lifetime charisma and an inhuman ability to withstand
punishment. Sakuraba personifies courage and embodies the warrior
spirit, embracing his role as a flagbearer for his people. He has
packed his resume with a number of high-profile names, including
wins over Vitor
Belfort , Guy Mezger ,
Randleman , Ken Shamrock
Jackson . Still, his most defining moments have come at the
expense of MMA’s First Family: the Gracies. Sakuraba also answered
the bell against opponents who were much larger and more imposing,
Vovchanchyn , Mirko
Filipovic , Antonio
Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo
Arona while showing no regard for his physical well-being.
While he has not aged well -- fighters rarely do -- he will go down
as one of the most influential people in mixed martial arts
Here are five things you might not know about Sakuraba, a man who
certainly belongs on MMA’s
Mount Rushmore :
1. He has more than held his own against the supposed
cream of the crop.
Sakuraba has defeated four former
Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholders: Randleman,
Jackson, Belfort and Carlos
2. Submissions are his bread and butter.
A protégé of Nobuhiko
Takada and catch wrestling savant Billy Robinson, Sakuraba has
delivered 19 of his 26 professional victories -- 73 percent -- by
submission. Eight have come by armbar, five by kimura, two by
kneebar, one by neck crank, one by triangle armbar, one by
rear-naked choke and one by Achilles’ lock.
3. He was a pillar of the
Pride Fighting Championships organization.
Between March 15, 1998 and March 25, 2001, Pride staged 14 events
in Sakuraba’s native Japan. He appeared at 13 of them, going 11-2-1
in 14 bouts. His only losses were to Vovchanchyn and Wanderlei
4. His career got off to an inauspicious
Sakuraba made his pro MMA debut at a Shoot Boxing show on July 14,
1996 and tapped to an arm-triangle choke from Kimo Leopoldo
at Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo. He would not lose by
submission again for more than 14 years.
5. Only quality opponents have managed to solve his
The 15 men to whom Sakuraba has lost -- Nogueira, Silva (three
times), Arona, Filipovic, Vovchanchyn, Leopoldo, Shinya Aoki ,
Cabral , Marius
Zaromskis , Jason
Miller , Nino Schembri, Ralek
Gracie , Kiyoshi
Tamura , Melvin
Manhoef and Royce Gracie
-- own a cumulative 367-118 record, good for a .757 winning