The land of the rising sun has produced some of mixed martial arts’ very best competitors.
Kazushi Sakuraba, Shinya Aoki, Hatsu Hioki, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Takanori Gomi, and Megumi Fujii are some of the cream of the crop when it comes to Japanese fighters, but UFC president Dana White believes that the man currently poised to challenge UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva for his belt at UFC 134 is the best fighter to ever emerge from the country.
“In my opinion, Yushin Okami is the best fighter ever to come out of Japan,” White said. “This guy didn’t fight cans and get this built-up, mythological record.”
Okami has been a competitor in the UFC middleweight division since 2006 and in twelve fights with the promotion, he’s only lost two. Thunder battled former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin to a unanimous decision loss back in 2007 and fought training partner Chael Sonnen (who’s arguably given Anderson Silva his toughest fight ever) to the same verdict in 2009.
The 30-year-old earned his shot at Silva as a result of his strong history with the UFC as well as the three-fight winning streak he’s currently on, which includes wins over Mark Muñoz and Nate Marquardt. Despite his decorated history with the UFC and his undeniable status as one of the world’s best 185-pounders, Okami has frequently been overlooked in the title picture. White rightly believes that a win over The Spider will finally earn Thunder his due.
“If he wins this fight, he’ll get the credit he finally deserves,” he said.
Okami actually holds the status as being the last man to defeat Silva, having taken a victory over the dominant Brazilian champ at Rumble on the Rock 8 back in 2006. The footnote there, of course, is that Okami won via disqualification after being knocked out by an up-kick delivered by the champ, an illegal strike in that promotion.
Though there is a personal element to the bout as a result of that, White sees each fighter’s motivation lying elsewhere.
“Anderson Silva is fighting for his legacy,” White said. “Yushin Okami is fighting for respect.”
Silva and Okami will meet this August 27 in the main event of UFC 134, which will take place at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.