Here at Combat Sports UK, we continue our series of remembering the greats of the grappling world and discussing the impact they had. Next up is Kazushi Sakuraba.
Kazushi Sakuraba was an anti-hero. Many see Royce Gracie as a god, watching him single-handedly destroy everyone in his path… until Kazushi came along. It was hard not to be in absolute awe of the fact that he beat not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 of the Gracies! He was the first Japanese Champion in the UFC and fought on PRIDE, Kingdom Pro Wrestling, Dynamite, Dream and Rizin Fighting Federation.
The Legend of Sakuraba
The now 52-year-old ‘Gracie Hunter’ as he became to be known, has been a firm favourite of many. His abilities, skills, strength, and determination should all be respected. Most notably Royce Gracie vs Kazushi Sakuraba on PRIDE in 2000. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll need a couple of toilet breaks, popcorn and plenty of drink, it lasts 90 minutes!
I know that this is under the title ‘Grappling Legends’ and this is for good reason.
Out of his 26 wins – 19 of them were via submission. 8 of these submissions were via armbar and 5 via Kimura. There were also stoppages via kneebars, neck cranks, calf lock, and rear naked chokes… so as you can see – his groundwork was a huge part of his success. It’s also worth noting that he was a natural welterweight, who often fought way above his weight bracket.
Check out Kazushi’s top 10 submissions – here
Kazushi never found fame the way that the Conor McGregor or the Gordon Ryan’s of today have and unfortunately was still fighting up until the age of 45. His legacy speaks for itself so it’s a shame that he still needed to fight. Although.. he’s a warrior, a fighter, we all assume he needed to fight – maybe he wanted to? Maybe the fighting spirit never left him and he wanted to keep trying to prove himself?
It is reported that his worth is around £3 million. So maybe the WANT to fight was more than the necessity?
Why Kazushi Sakuraba?
For me, Kazushi reminded the world how important other fighting styles are, in the world of grappling. Catch wrestling, wrestling, and Judo will certainly help your ground game and Kazushi is proof of that. At the time, he also reminded me that even the greatest can fall, when he did it the 4th time, he showed the world that he wasn’t a fluke. He also beat other big names, including Ken Shamrock, Quinton Jackson, Carlos Newton, Vitor Belfort and Kevin Randleman.
Featured image credits to Metamoris