Since they're all in the twilight of their careers, it seemed natural for the UFC to add Takanori Gomi, Norafumi "Kid" Yamamoto and Yoshihiro Akiyama to the UFC Fight Night 52 card in September in Japan, according to Dave Meltzer of MMA Fighting.
Although none of the three men have flourished since joining the UFC, the company's brass must assume that if anything's going to motivate them, it'll be the UFC's first trip to Japan since UFC on Fuel TV 8.
Of the three, only Gomi fought on the UFC on Fuel TV 8 card, which was held at the Saitama Super Arena—the same venue that will play host to UFC Fight Night 52—in March 2013. Gomi lost via split decision to Diego Sanchez in a catchweight bout at 158 pounds.
Gomi, who sports a UFC record of 4-4, has won three of his last four fights, the latest win coming via unanimous decision over Isaac Vallie-Flagg at UFC 172 in April.
Gomi has fought 28 of his first 30 bouts in Japan and holds a 31-5 record there. In his sovereign land, The Fireball Kid has never been KO'd and has only been submitted twice.
Neither Yamamaoto nor Akiyama have fought since the company's first trip to the Saitama Super Arena, where the pair suffered losses at UFC 144 in February 2012. Yamamoto got armbarred by Vaughan Lee to drop his third straight UFC bout, and Akiyama dropped a unanimous decision to Jake Shields to lose his fourth straight fight in the promotion.
Yamamoto won 16 of his first 17 bouts in Japan, 13 of which he won by way of KO. He has dropped three of his last four bouts in his home country.
Yamamoto (far left), Gomi (third from left) and Akiyama (fourth from right)
Akiyama lost just once in his first 13 bouts in Japan.
New Zealander Mark Hunt, a legend in Japanese MMA, will lock horns with ninth-ranked UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson in the night's main event.
The eighth-ranked Hunt went 5-3 in Japan during his days with PRIDE FC in its cutthroat heavyweight division. Hunt's only losses in PRIDE came in bouts against Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett and Hidehiko Yoshida.
In 29 pro fights, Big Country has yet to compete in Japan. Nelson has won seven of 12 fights in the UFC.