Sakakibara's MMA Promotion Has a Name but Still No Word on Fedor's Opponent

Fightland Blog

By James Goyder

Rizin Fighting Federation (RFF) is the name of Nobuyuki Sakakibara’s new MMA promotion. The organization has booked the Saitama Super Arena for three nights at the end of December and will put on at least two fight cards during that period.

A press conference took place in Tokyo this afternoon to launch RFF. The only actual fight to be announced was an all Japanese bout between Shinya Aoki and Kazushi Sakuraba. That means Fedor Emelianenko is still without an official opponent despite rumors circulating this week that he would face 1-0 Indian Jaideep Singh.

Sakakibara is one of the original founders of Pride FC, alongside Nobuhiko Takada who also spoke at the press conference. Both took a hiatus from MMA after the organization was bought out by Zuffa but have reunited to launch RFF. Some Pride stars are set to feature on the organization’s inaugural card with Sakuraba fighting for the first time since 2011 and Fedor returning after a three year absence.

Speculation has been rife ever since Sakakibara announced he would be returning to MMA with an event on New Year’s Eve and that Fedor would be on the card. However today’s press conference will have disappointed fans hoping to find out exactly what Japan’s newest promotion would have in store for us this December.

The only other two confirmed participants for the December shows are female fighters Gabi Garcia and Rena Kubota. The former is a multiple time BJJ world champion who coached on Wanderlei Silva’s team at TUF Brazil 3 while the latter is a multiple time Shootbox champion. Given the massive disparity in size they presumably won’t be fighting each other.

Also in attendance at the press conference was Bellator president Scott Coker who says he has had a strong working relationship with Sakakibara since his days as Strikeforce CEO. He confirmed that some Bellator fighters would be in action at the Saitama Super Arena on New Year’s Eve and the two organizations will also be sharing a broadcast platform in the US with RFF set to be televised by Spike.

Coker was not the only promoter in attendance. RFF will be working with organizations across the world including BAMMA in the UK, KSW in Poland and Brazil’s Jungle Fight. With the press conference conducted primarily in Japanese it was difficult to keep track of the various announcements but Jungle Fight founder Wallid Ismail probably summed up what most observers were thinking when he said in Portugese, "this is the new Pride."

The ruleset will be the same as Pride’s with soccer kicks and knees to a grounded opponent allowed but no elbows. RFF will also be using the ten minute opening round that Pride was famous for and the inaugural event will be titled: ‘Rizin Fighting World Grand Prix 2015'.


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