But putting marketing aside, there is another reality to Akiyama. After Akiyama was knocked out cold on December 31, 2007, by Kazuo Misaki, he has not been the same fighter. He is slower to react, which is the kiss of death against top competition. Fighting Entertainment Group, the promotion behind K-1 in Japan, was well aware of this, putting him against two non-fighters in his only matches this past year. Unless his reflexes suddenly snap back to pre-knockout levels, UFC is paying big money for a fighter who may very well be shot. And unlike in Japan, UFC is not going to put fighters who couldn’t even win in minor-league shows against him because he’s a draw.
I haven’t noticed any real sign of Akiyama being a different fighter after Misaki kicked him in the face. But then again, I’m not exactly the most knowledgeable person in the universe when it comes to Japanese fighters. Sure, FEG booked him against canny opponents but they do that on a regular basis with a lot of their big names – which in my opinion is one of the reasons they’ve been floundering lately. But again, it’s not like I understand what Japanese people want out of their fights. I don’t even understand what Japanese people want ” target=”_blank”>on their freakin’ pizza.
Regardless of if Akiyama is shot or not, he’s still a huge draw in Japan and Korea. Dave seems to think the UFC won’t keep him around on account of this but if they’ve kept Brandon Vera around at 100k/100k per fight because he’s got Pinoy pull, I think Akiyama will be safe for at least a few fights out east.