Japanese Olympic Judo Gold Medalist Satoshi Ishii, who was cageside for UFC 92 on Saturday, has entered exclusive negotiations with the UFC, the promotion has announced.
Ishii earned the gold medal this fall in Beijing in the men’s over 100-kilogram division. It was widely anticipated that he’d sign with a Japanese MMA promotion for his MMA debut, but in early-December he announced his intention to immediately fight in the UFC. In an effort to make his wishes a reality the UFC brought Ishii to Las Vegas this week to train at Xtreme Couture alongside 5-time UFC champion Randy Couture and attend Saturday’s pay-per-view event, where he was featured during the unaired preliminary bout between Yushin Okami and Dean Lister.
The trip appears to have had its intended effect with Ishii and the UFC now exclusively working towards a contract that will likely see Ishii debut in the octagon in 2009.
“I was impressed with the training programs here in Las Vegas and the UFC event,” said Ishii in the announcement on UFC.com. “I am looking forward to working with the UFC and to developing my mixed martial arts skills.”
“Satoshi Ishii has the potential to be very successful in mixed martial arts,” UFC President Dana White told UFC.com. “We can’t wait to start working with Mr. Ishii, we look forward to helping him with his training, his career, and his eventual debut in a professional fight.”
According to the announcement it hasn’t yet been determined whether Ishii will fight at heavyweight or light heavyweight in the UFC.