Satoshi Ishii's K-1 Debut Likely in December, Possibly Against Le Banner

Aaron YoungContributor IIIOctober 6, 2010

Before earning his second career MMA victory at Dream.16 over Japanese legend Ikuhisa Minowa, Satoshi Ishii, gold medalist in Judo at the 2008 Olympic Games, expressed his interest in challenging three-time K-1 World Grand Prix Champion Peter Aerts in a kickboxing fight to test his stand-up skills.

On Saturday, Aerts defeated Ewerton Teixiera and qualified for the K-1 World Grand Prix Final, ruling out a fight with Ishii in 2010.

However, FEG President Sadaharu Tanikawa still has the immensely popular Ishii will participate at the Final on December 11. 

"Aerts is in the Final 8, but how about [Jerome] Le Banner as an opponent for Ishii?" Tanikawa said. If Le Banner would happen to be be unavailable, the president also mentioned Teixeira, a Kyokushin karate expert, as a possible opponent for the judoka.

K-1 legend Jerome Le Banner also participated at Saturday's Final 16 event but forfeited his match against K-1 Heavyweight Champion Kyotaro when he refused to return to the ring after the judges called for an extension round at the end of regulation time, a decision Le Banner was very upset with.

The rumored Le Banner-Ishii matchup would serve as a "Superfight" to take place before the quarterfinal round of the Grand Prix commences. It is not known if the fight would serve as a replacement fight, in which the winner would be a fill-in for any fighter injured in the final rounds of the tournament.

There are many obvious and attractive reasons for K-1 to schedule this fight.

For one, the Japanese TV ratings for last week's Final 16 were reportedly mediocre, and any appearance by Japanese superstar Ishii would nearly guarantee a solid rating for K-1.

Secondly, there is a large market for a judo versus kickboxing matchup in Japan, similar to the boxing versus MMA showdown between James Toney and Randy Couture in the UFC. Japanese fans are keen on hybrid martial arts matches, as evidenced in the past (i.e. Olympic wrestler Rulon Gardner and Olympic judoka Hidehiko Yoshida at Pride Shockwave 2004).

Last spring after claiming the gold medal in Judo at the Olympic Games in Beijing in the summer of 2008, Satoshi Ishii announced his intentions to commit to a career in mixed martial arts. The frenzy to sign the 23-year-old began shortly after, and every promotion in the world, including the UFC, lined up to make their pitch to the free agent.

In the end, after rejecting an offer from Dream and its parent company FEG, Ishii chose to sign with World Victory Road, the promoters of Sengoku. He has yet to compete for the company.

Despite his inactivity with Sengoku, Ishii made his much-anticipated MMA debut last December at the annual Dynamite!! event, losing to fellow Japanese icon Yoshida by decision. This May, he defeated Tafa Misipati by submission before greatly advancing his career with his defeat of "Minowaman" by decision at Dream.16 on September 25.

It is safe to say that Le Banner (76-19-1-(1) in kickboxing), the 2002 K-1 World Grand Prix runner-up, would be the heavy favorite in the potential fight with Ishii. Even though Le Banner has lost six of his last 10 fights, and Ishii's stand-up appeared to be greatly improved against Minowa, the "Bulldog of Normandy" still possesses massive power in his hands, and his skills would most likely be too much for a K-1 rookie such as Ishii to handle.

Other than the four quarterfinal matches of the K-1 World Grand Prix, no matches have been confirmed for the December 11 card. K-1 usually holds off on all official announcements until close to the scheduled event date. Much more is expected to come.