Kazushi Sakuraba is one of the pioneers of Japanese MMA; there are fewer more highly-respected competitors to have ever emerged from the land of the rising sun.
Sakuraba is known for his impressive durability and fighting spirit; he is willing to fight anyone, regardless of discrepancies in size, age or skill. Though this is one of the very things which have bolstered his legend, UFC president Dana White recently told Mauro Ranallo on his MMA Show podcast that he believes the Japanese promoters’ willingness to exploit Sakuraba’s grit has held him back from realizing his true potential.
“I’m a huge Sakuraba fan,” said White. “The problem with the Sakuraba story is, Sakuraba should have fought at 170 pounds instead of doing all these Japanese freak show fights where they got him destroyed by guys who were two weight classes heavier than him. So, it goes unanswered whether Kazushi Sakuraba could have been the greatest fighter to ever come out of Japan. The Japanese ruined him.
“It’s just like any other sport that starts out in the beginning,” he went on. “Guys that were great that you try to compare ’em to different eras and, you know, like I told you — huge Sakuraba fan and it’s unfortunate that his career wasn’t handled in the right way where we could have found out if this guy was possibly the best fighter ever in Japanese history and I don’t disagree with you at all that he was a huge superstar and definitely put, you know, it on the map, not only in Japan but in the rest of the world.”
After losing three straight fights emphatically, The Gracie Hunter is set to face the unheralded Yan Cabral at Dream.17 this September 24 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.