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Yoshihiro Akiyama, Judoka & his ONE Championship journey

3 Aug 2020 10:10


Before the bright lights of the UFC octagon and decorated career in mixed martial arts, current ONE Championship legend Yoshihiro Akiyama made his come up through the world of Judoka.

Yoshihiro Akiyama has been a practitioner of Judoka since the tender age of three, with multiple Judo Championship successes; what remains for the current member of the One Championship roster and former UFC legend.  

Aged forty-four, Akiyama is no spring chicken and has reached the latter stage of his career to the maximum. I guess a small amount of MMA fights taken and a job outside of MMA has enabled the Korean star of Japanese-decent to fulfil such a dangerous career into his mid-forties.  

A long-time relationship with Greg Jackson and the Jackson-Wink MMA gym put Akiyama on the biggest stage of them all; fighting for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. But before the bright lights, a small three-year-old in Korea began perfecting his Judoka craft while enjoying his favourite martial arts cartoons.  

Judo Accomplishments 

2001 – 2002 Asian Games were the pinnacle of Akiyama’s Judo career. He collected the Asian championship gold medal representing South Korea in 2001. After gaining citizenship in Japan, he returned to the Asian Games in 2002 - winning the Championship consecutively for both Japan and South Korea.  

In the 2003 Asian Games, Akiyama reached the final sixteen but didn’t pass the semi-finals. He was accused of wearing slippery judogi by the two opponents he defeated to reach the semi-finals.  

Akiyama defeated three fighters in the middleweight division: however, all three of them made the same accusation that Akiyama was using a slippery texture on his judogi. After switching for a reserve gi, Akiyama coincidently lost his following two matchups, costing him a medal.  

Further investigation by the International Judo Federation found that humidity caused the slippery texture and that Akiyama was utterly innocent during the competition. 

Taking Judoka onto the main stage 

The ever-evolving Akiyama transitioned into the world of professional mixed martial arts, making his debut for the K-1 promotion in 2004. Akiyama competed for three/four years, before eventually making his debut in the UFC.  

In 2009 Akiyama, now known as ‘Sexyama’ to UFC fans, began training with some of the best coaches and gyms in the world. To accompany his Judoka, Karate & Boxing background, Akiyama further developed his abilities while competing at the highest level of the sport. He made his last appearance in a UFC octagon back in 2015; I think age had caught up with the legend-making him step-back from MMA. 

One FC 

One Championship resumes to their regular schedule at the end of the month. Akiyama has already found a knockout earlier this year, and you can discover fighters much like the Judoko star Akiyama will battle for ranking and championship titles. Find the best available odds at sportsbookreview for the One Championship July 30TH event ‘No Surrender’ headlined by Rodtang vs Petchdam. 

Showcasing Judoka in One Championship 

Just when Akiyama fans thought they might not see him compete again, after a three year absence, he announced his contract signing with Japanese MMA organization One Championship.  

While making his legendary debut aged 44 for One FC, Akiyama has remained humble and will not forget what brought him to the bright lights, Judoka.  

“ONE Championship is an organization that values the fundamentals, such as manners and respect for your opponent. These are things I learned through judo,” he explains to 

“Although I’ve won a lot in judo, the most meaningful wins were from the World Judo Championships,” he recalled. 

“Of course, I love competing, but what drew me to judo was the etiquette involved. I learned a lot from that. I think that’s the most appealing aspect of judo.” 

Akiyama is a veteran of 22 MMA bouts and has finished opponents with both strikes and submissions. The 44-year-old earned multiple ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses during his UFC career but credited judo with giving him a base to beat some of the best middleweights of the era, 

“The importance of judo to a mixed martial arts fighter is evident by watching my fighting style. The technique of being able to throw or knock down an opponent is necessary, so I think judo is vital for mixed martial arts.” 

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