TOKYO – April 30th, RIZIN CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara, held a press conference and announced updates about RIZIN.29’s kickboxing tournament. The international stream will be through LiveNow.
“RIZIN will continue to progress during the given conditions, under government protocols.” said Sakakibara at the start of the press conference. “A seats and S seats for RIZIN.29 have already sold out. 5,000 tickets are ready but we will continue to put on intriguing matches.”
Kouzi asked for a 1 day tournament a few days back, and Sakakibara relayed that he understands where he's coming from. RIZIN is more focused on MMA and he feels Kouzi's frustration. “RIZIN is responding to the fans's voices. If the fans can continue to raise their voice that they want to see kickboxing we can do more. In order to do so, we have decided to meet Kouzi's request. Ever since Kouzi's request, we have had several inquiries from fighters. I will bring in the participants later. This tournament will be sponsored by BODY MAKER. Tournament prize money will be determined later.”
The RIZIN 1-night kick tournament had its 4 participants announced, along with an envelope drawing. 4 envelopes are set. Only 1 envelope had the ticket to choose an opponent. The fighter who picks the winning envelope will pick his opponent, and the remaining matchup will also be determined.
Muay Thai legend Genji Umeno (47-12-3, 22 KOs) drew first, and picked the winning envelope, choosing Kouzi for the first round. The 32-year-old Battle of Muay Thai Lightweight Champion is 3-1 in his last 4, and is eying a revenge match in the final against fellow participant Taiju Shiratori. The pair first clashed in the RISE World Series 2019 final, where he was stopped in the first round by a left hook. He is perhaps the most experienced participant, as he was the former Rajadamnern 135 lbs champion, WPMF World Super Featherweight champion, WBC Muaythai World and International Super Featherweight champion, as well as the former M-1 Featherweight Champion. Hometown star KOUZI (28-14-2, 10 KOs) is coming off an exciting scrap with Takanori Gomi in a special rules bout at RIZIN 26. He made his RIZIN debut against Tenshin Nasukawa at RIZIN.24 in September of last year. The 2017 ISKA World Lightweight Champion, 2013 HEAT Kick Lightweight Champion, and 2012 TRIBELATE Kick Super Featherweight Champion looks to impress in front of his home crowd in a star-studded tournament. He is 4-2 in his last 6 outings, only dropping decisions to Nasukawa and K-1 Champion, Takeru.
The middle of the three Takahashi brothers, Ryo Takahashi makes his RIZIN debut against RISE star and Tenshin Nasukawa stablemate Taiju Shiratori (20-7-1, 10 KOs) faces Takahashi, and carries a 4-0 record in RIZIN, beating the likes of Hiroto Yamaguchi, Taiga and Yoshiya Uzatsuyo. The 2019 RISE Lightweight Champion captured the 2019 RISE World Series -61kg Tournament by defeating fellow participant Genji Umeno. Shockingly, he is riding a 2-fight skid after a 12-fight win streak, and looks to bounce back in spectacular fashion over other well-established names in the Japanese kickboxing scene.
Familiar faces return as Sakakibara also announced 2 additional kickboxing matches to the RIZIN.29 card in Osaka.
Seiki Ueyama vs Jyosei Izumi takes place at 56kg. Former SHOOT BOXING 55kg Champion Ueyama has a 2-1 record in RIZIN, debuting at RIZIN.16 where he scored 3 knockdowns enroute to a 1st round stoppage win over Kengo. He then earned a decision win over Taisei Umei at RIZIN.19 before dropping a decision to Rui Ebata at RIZIN.22 in August of last year. Izumi is coming off a split decision win over Ryota Naito at HEAT 48 just days ago.
Yuma Yamahata vs Kiyoto Takahashi rounds out the kickboxing matches, this one being at 63kg. Yamahata returns to the RIZIN ring after coming up short against Taiga at RIZIN.25 last November. Since then, he defended the DEEP Kick 63kg title in his last outing 3 weeks ago, a rematch with Kensaku Oishi, following their draw at RISE 146 in February. Ryo Takahashi’s younger brother (and the youngest of the three Takahashi brothers), Kiyoto has the chance to capture a title of his own, as he will face Yamato Ashikaga on May 2nd for the vacant NKB 62kg title exactly 4 weeks before his bout with Yamahata to set up a champion vs champion bout.
Sakakibara touched on the rules for the tournament bouts, noting “Fights are 3 minutes and 3 rounds with no extra rounds. The fight will be determined within 3 rounds. RIZIN is focused on delivering what the people want to see. This tournament will be the test case to show the great appeal of kickboxing to the people. Talk is fun, but I really hope these fighters can put on a great performance in the ring that will inspire the people and give hope to the people during these hard times. We have the Bantamweight tournament going on at the same time so I hope these guys can make the people love tournaments.”
Tensions rose as the kickboxers opined about the appeal of kickboxing in RIZIN. “I see many fans saying RIZIN is an MMA organization and there is no demand for kickboxing. But I want to change those people's opinions with my performance.”said Takahashi. Shiratori chimed in, saying, “I still hear anti kickboxing opinions from RIZIN fans. I really hope to shut them up with the 4 of us in Osaka.” Umeno added, “‘RIZIN equals MMA’ is the image that has been developed. But I think that we can still show them that kickboxing is fun to watch. I think all of these participants have what it takes to show the appeal of kickboxing.”
Kouzi pulled no punches, and went as far as to blame Sakakibara. “RIZIN MMA is good. I won't deny it. But as a kickboxer I feel obligated to grow the sport I put everything into. I blame Sakakibara for flaking on the kickboxing part of combat sports. Sakakibara it's your fault.”Sakakibara didn’t back down, and hinted at expanding RIZIN’s presence in the kickboxing scene. “I think this is the time to prove me wrong. Convince me with your performance. Maybe we can branch off and create a RIZIN Kickboxing event if you can create enough demand.”
“I picked Kouzi because I respect him. He talks a lot but has lots of influence and he delivers what he says. I will be honored to be face3 such a man. I want to meet Shiratori in the finals and get my revenge. Kouzi is a very smart guy and knows how to talk and sell the fight. I've been fighting for 14 years believing that accomplishments will get you fame. Kouzi talks his way into fame first, and now he's called for a legitimate tournament. Our goals are the same. Real men accomplish things. Kouzi talks but has accomplished many things. I respect him and his style. I hate talkers who don't deliver.”
“I'm very excited to have this tournament take place. All of these opponents are legit, but they are all here to be my sidekick. Shiratori is a little pathetic dude with a pretty face. He should have stayed in Tenshin's shadows. I respect Umeno. He's accomplished a lot but way past his prime. He's a dancing Muay Thai guy and I plan to hunt him down. I don't like to fight southpaws but I haven't won a single fight in RIZIN yet so I'm not in the position to choose.”
“Takahashi fights at a lower weight class so I never thought I would be facing him but he is a very legit opponent. I really want to beat up Kouzi in the finals but I don't think he will get past Umeno. I've been calling out Kouzi ever since he's moved over to RIZIN but he's been dodging me since. I honestly lost interest in him. He says I'm Tenshin's sidekick but imagine losing to a sidekick and where that will put him.”
“I want to change my life in this tournament. Shiratori is a very tough challenge but I hope to beat him and meet Kouzi in the finals. I will make my hometown proud. I've known Kouzi for a long time and we're both in Osaka, I hope I get to meet him in the finals in Osaka and make a great fight out of it.”
“I know that I’m the big name in Osaka. And Sakakibara told me that I could headline the Osaka event but I would like to decline his offer. I haven’t won a single fight since joining RIZIN and I don’t want to be handed that main event spot. I want to earn it. So I would like to suggest a 1 night 4 man tournament with the finals being the main event. There are tons of haters out there talking smack about me. Enter the tournament and I’ll fight you. Let’s take care of business, I don’t care who enters the tournament. Let’s get this going!”
RIZIN. 29 - May 30th
Kintaro vs Kuya Ito - 61kg MMA Rules (RIZIN Bantamweight GP opening round)
Takafumi Otsuka vs Shian - 61kg MMA Rules (RIZIN Bantamweight GP opening round)
Kazuma Kuramoto vs Alan Hiro Yamaniha - 61kg MMA Rules (RIZIN Bantamweight GP opening round)
Kenta Takizawa vs Kazunari Imanari - 61kg MMA Rules (RIZIN Bantamweight GP opening round)
Yusuke Yachi vs Yuki Kawana - 71kg MMA Rules (Elbows allowed)
Rikuto Shirakawa vs Jin Aoi - 66kg MMA Rules (Elbows allowed)
[4 man kickboxing tournament]
Kouzi vs Genji Umeno
Taiju Shiratori vs Ryo Takahashi
RIZIN.29 will be Streamed LIVE on SkyperfectTV, and RIZIN LIVE PPV with Japanese commentary. English commentary stream is provided by LiveNow.
Doors are expected to open at 1:00PM with Opening Ceremony at 3:00PM. RIZIN.29 on May 30th (Sun) at the Maruzen Intech Arena.
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