With World Victory Road having already announced a host of names for the Sengoku featherweight tournament, parent company Fighting and Entertainment Group has finally lit the fuse for the Dream featherweight grand prix, officially announcing 12 names for the tournament bracket, which kicks off on March 8 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The dozen entrants offer very little surprise, as the vast majority of the participants were well speculated on and all but official for several weeks. The domestic side will feature Deep champion Masakazu Imanari, popular janitor-turned-MMA superstar Hideo Tokoro, 2008 Cage Force featherweight tournament runner-up "Wicky Akiyo" Akiyo Nishiura, WEC veteran Hiroyuki Takaya, Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto protégé Atsushi Yamamoto and well traveled prospect Takafumi Otsuka. Former lightweight King of Pancrase Shoji Maruyama will take on charismatic firebrand "DJ.taiki" Daiki Hata on Deep's Feb. 10 card with the winner gaining a spot in the bracket.
The announced foreign contingent features former WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beebe, WEC veteran Micah Miller and Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Bibiano Fernandes. It will also mark the MMA debuts of two grappling sports stars in South Korean judoka Jong Won Kim and 2006 Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Joe Warren, who was slapped with a two-year suspension from wrestling after he tested positive for marijuana a second time in May 2007.
Still unconfirmed for the grand prix is Dream superstar Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, who the tournament was originally slated to be built around. Dream event producer Keiichi Sasahara said that while "Kid" will not be featured on the March card, Yamamoto's participation is still undecided.
FEG and Yamamoto have cited continuing issues with knee injury, although there are further complications in the matter due to many of Dream's event sponsors being reluctant to champion Yamamoto's return due to lingering public relations issues. In July, Japanese tabloid Shukan Gendai linked the 31-year-old Yamamoto to "marijuana parties" in Tokyo, a serious allegation given the strict cannabis control laws in Japan.
If Yamamoto does participate in the tournament, he will be seeded into the second round of the tournament in May, after the seven tournament bouts play out in March. Should "Kid" not be part of the bracket, a full slate of 16 fighters will square off on March 7.
In another curious on-going saga, FEG still has yet to officially announce the weight contract for the tournament. Thus far, Dream's featherweight bouts have been held at catch weights of 139 and 141 pounds. Yamamoto, who was to be the cornerstone of the tournament, was originally given input into the weight structure and suggested a 135 or 137-pound cutoff. Now, Sasahara has announced that the official weight will be announced in the coming days, and will likely be between 139 and 143 pounds.
Ik hoop wel dat Kid mee doet aan het tournooi,al zie ik hem ook graag in de WEC verschijnen..