Masakazu Imanari (file photo) has turned his focus toward Dream.
| Photo: Taro Irei/Sherdog.com
Imanari, who on Saturday advanced to the finals of Dream’s 2011
Japan bantamweight grand prix, has relinquished the 137-pound title
which he held in Japanese indie promotion Deep since
Deep President Shigeru Saeki announced Imanari’s decision Tuesday
during a news conference at Deep Official Gym Impact in Tokyo. Also
present were Hiroshi
Nakamura and Takafumi
Otsuka, who will vie for the now-vacant bantamweight belt at
Impact” on June 24.
Once the promotion’s featherweight ace, Imanari became Deep’s
inaugural bantamweight champion in August 2008 with a 29-second
heel-hooking of Hiroshi
Umemura. The 35-year-old leglock master had gone 5-0 in Deep
with two title defenses until dropping unanimous decision to
Nakamura in a February non-title bout.
Imanari bested both Zst champion Keisuke
Fujiwara and WEC veteran Kenji Osawa
at Saturday’s Dream “Fight for Japan,” booking his passage to the
tournament final against Hideo
Tokoro. Regardless of the outcome of their July 16 bout, both
Imanari and Tokoro are expected to advance to Dream’s planned 2011
world bantamweight grand prix in the fall.
Otsuka also entered Dream’s tournament Saturday, but was eliminated
in the opening round by Osawa in a narrow split decision. The
24-year-old has lost four of his last five starts, including split
verdicts against Kazuyuki
Miyata and Koichiro
Matsumoto, the latter of which cost Otsuka his Deep
Nakamura, 30, spent the first four years of his career campaigning
in Shooto, departing the ranks of the long-running Japanese
organization in early-2009 and entering the Deep ring in February
2010. Despite being punched out by Isao Terada
in his promotional debut -- his first loss since 2006 -- Nakamura
subsequently ran off back-to-back wins over Tomohiko
Hori and Tatsumitsu
Wada before topping Imanari.