It may be difficult for new fans to imagine. It may be difficult for old fans to remember.
But when judoka Satoshi Ishii announced his intention to fight in MMA after winning a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games, lots of us got pretty excited.
Seen above winning All-Japan Judo Championships in 2008 (photo credit: Daniel Vaulot), Ishii was seen as not only a great young prospect in MMA — he was seen as possible savior for the entire Japanese MMA scene. Here was an unquestionably world class athlete with a built-in fan base, some great experience in the combative sports, and a stated intent to train with the best.
Ishii made plans to visit American Top Team — and begin a quest for world domination.
It just… never quite happened.
He made his MMA debut in 2009, losing to fellow judoka Hidehiko Yoshida by decision. He bounced back to win a few, including K-1 standout Jerome Le Banner. Still, somehow, his heart didn’t really seem into it. A devastating loss to Fedor Emelianenko in 2011 probably didn’t help.
But he has soldiered on, plying his trade almost exclusively in Japan with Antonio Inoki’s IGF promotion, which includes both pro wrestling and MMA bouts.
Last night, he fought again — sort of. It looks more like a sparring session to me, against an opponent with little training.
But judge for yourself. Here’s the video of Satoshi Ishii vs. William Penn at IGF 4: