ALPHA-1 NEWS January
After J-1 signed Motoichi Arakida and Shingen Kumasaka, both extremely popular and skilled pro wrestlers with many decades in the industry and some relatively fresh MMA credentials, as well as Trace Bannon, a kickboxer/wrestler/MMA fighter who keeps going with his awesome 31-6-4 record despite being 48, there were rumours that ALPHA-1 could respond by hiring some of the other famous veterans, such as Judai “Dragon” Agakawa, a Judo gold medallist and Strong Style wrestler who at 53 still puts his 18-0-2 MMA record to test, or Tatsumaki Mibu, a 51-year-old BHOTWG wrestler and aikidoka who recently came into MMA and amassed a 5-0-1 record. However, the ALPHA-1 management issued a proclamation that while they respect those seasoned fighters, their aim is to hire fighters that will be able to give their best in the ring for the next 10-20 years, as they are fully aware that it will take a considerable amount of time for the Tier system to become fully operational and able to precisely measure the worth of ALPHA-1’s fighters. Therefore, no fighters over the age of 36 were considered as viable hiring targets during the current roster expansion.
ALPHA-1 NEW HIRINGS January
This announcement was followed by information on the signings that ALPHA-1 made in the month of January. The initial rumours about three dozen fighters being contacted seem to have been exaggerated, but not by much (or maybe just some initial offers were later withdrawn). [number], with the Middleweight division, generally considered the weakest in the company, getting the most signings as well as arguable the highest profile ones.
The most stacked division in ALPHA-1 did not receive any very high profile signings compared to the other divisions. That does not mean, however, that there was no influx of great and exciting talent – on the contrary, some experts claim that this batch of fighters can prove to be the strongest addition that any ALPHA-1 division has received in quite some time! One of the earliest signings was Reynier Ramirez, a young judoka from Cuba that caught ALPHA-1 scouts’ eye during the 1996 Summer Olympics. A 2-0 pro MMA record is nothing to write home about, but he has won in such a dominant way against such respectable opposition that he already was classified as #18 Heavyweight in the world, and his current involvement with the legendary Feitosa BJJ Academy only makes us more excited about what this 24-year-old fighter can mature into. A fellow World Heavyweight Ranking ranker, at #16, is Robert Royal, another early signing. The Canadian boxer has so far won 3 out of 3 MMA bouts and if he can supplement his enormous strength and fearsome uppercuts with more grappling skill this record will only improve. The other fighter signed to the Heavyweight division are Sadatake Hiro, an extremely promising Japanese prospect with submission wrestling, jujitsu and striking credentials as well as a 5-0 record; Kanezane Fujii who despite being 20 and having only fought (and won) 1 MMA bout was already nicknamed “The Great Japanese Hope” due to his judo and wrestling skill; and Claudio Burdisso, an extremely dangerous Chilean street fighter who moved to Japan to compete in MMA and so far has managed to achieve a 3-0 record despite being only 18.
Light Heavyweight division
Only four Light Heavyweights have signed up with ALPHA-1 in January, but two of them are very high profile individuals. Dae Yung Moon from Seoul, South Korea is one of the best Taekwondo fighters of recent years, having won the World Games, World Cup and Asian Games. Retiring from Taekwondo, he took up MMA and so far is 7-0 in the sport, enough for Blurcat to classify him as #14 Light Heavyweight in the world. He is a very dangerous striker, but has to be a bit nervous joining a division containing some submission artists of the highest calibre, such as Tadamasa Yamada, Sho Kitabatake, and now the other new fighter whose signing caused much excitement in the MMA world, Ewerton Feitosa. The oldest son of Hall of Famer Ricardo Feitosa Jr., trainee of the legendary Feitosa BJJ Academy and already a successful BJJ and submission wrestling fighter, Ewerton has managed to get an 8-0 record in two years that he has been an MMA fighter and he shows no signs of stopping. The other two new Light Heavyweights are young & bright Japanese prospects, wrestler/jujitsuka Jiroemon Hasegawa (3-0) and wrestler with overall MMA training Ryuji Ganaha (1-0).
The weakest of ALPHA-1 divisions just got a whole lot more interesting. The most important signing is without doubt Jonathan “The Locust” Huang, a Thai superstar widely regarded as one of the best jiu jitsu competitors of all time, whose 4-0 record and incredible skill have not warranted a World Ranking spot only due to the sporadicalness of his matches and the very low quality of his opponents. He was signed to a contract which is rumoured to amount more than 300.000$ for a single fight, which is an astonishing amount, considering that even the ultrapopular Palmer Lette is only rumoured to be paid around 250.000$ for a bout. As if Huang wasn’t enough news, ALPHA-1 has also signed Sebastian Shiller, a Dutch Muay Thai legend and the owner of the Farang Ba Muay Thai camp, who even despite being 34 and having a mixed record of 3-2 in professional MMA is still considered one of the world’s best Middleweight strikers. And as if to complete a set, after a submission fighter and a striker the third big name for the MW division is a highly respected wrestler, Indonesia’s Tora Mizwar, who with his enormous strength managed to amass a 19-6 record while still being only 25, which earned him #21 on the World Middleweight list by Blurcat as well as admiration of fans across Asia. The other four (sic!) new Middleweights seem uninteresting by comparison, but don’t let that fool you. Jakuchu Abe (Jiu Jitsu black belt who trained to make himself a complete mixed martial artist and, at 20, won his first MMA bout), Tetsuji Myojin (a well-rounded student of Sambo with a 4-0 record), Fumiki Ikeda (a former pro wrestler with a 5-0 record, loads of charisma and submission skills) and Kadonomaro Deguchi (one of the most promising wrestlers in Japan with a 2-0 record that’s likely to increase) are all ones for the future and might end up toppling the higher-profile fighters.
The Welterweight division only gets one truly great name, but what a name it is! Heikichi Shimizu may have debuted only a year ago (after turning 30!) and won only 2 fights (out of 2), but he is a living legend in judo respected by the fans and competitors around the world, and can easily compete with Jonatan Huang, Tadamasa Yamada or Hassan Fezzik for the title of the best submission wrestler in ALPHA-1. Speaking of submission wrestling, another contender in this field was also signed for this division Kaito Akimoto, whose innovative and flashy submissions are a delight for the connoisseurs of this fighting style, and whose 9-1 record should be enough for all the other MMA fans to consider him a worthy addition to the roster. Eiji Masuko, another highly ranked judoka with a 1-0 record in MMA, and Konosuke Shirahata, a decent ground-and-pounder who is currently 3-0, are less exciting, but nonetheless promising additions to the Welterweight division.
Despite its small size, the Lightweight division has only gained four new fighters, two of whom used to compete in the Featherweight class. However, each one of them is a name that martial arts fans are – or should be – acquainted with. The most important among them is without doubt Pralong Sangsomwong, a Muay Thai legend who achieved great success in J-1 kickboxing promotion (which means that him coming to ALPHA-1 instead of J-1’s Full Contact Combat promotion is an even bigger deal) and who took MMA by storm, winning 3 out of 3 bouts in such a dominant manner, that – along with his past achievements – have earned him a #4 on Blurcat’s World Lightweight list and #25 on World Pound 4 Pound. Another World ranker, at #19, is the American Bernie Cohen, who despite his ungainly look is a BJJ brown belt and a talented Muay Thai fighter with a respectable 12-4 record and even more respectable in this division 6’1 in height. The two Featherweight converts, Kei Maki (an elite kickboxer with a 3-0 MMA record) and Yagi Jokichi (a world class Seidokaikan Karate fighter with impressive ground skill and a 4-0 record in MMA) are both youngsters loaded with potential and we look forward to seeing them in action.