Akira Shoji will have his last bout April 23 against Kazuo
Misaki. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
One of the most recognizable fighters of the
Pride era is finally ready to call it a career.
At Deep "52
Impact" on Friday in Tokyo, hard-luck veteran Akira Shoji
announced he would fight once more before officially ending his
professional fighting career. Shoji offered an open invitation to
opponents, which was quickly accepted by former Pride grand prix
Misaki and Shoji will meet for the second time at Deep's "53
Impact" on April 23 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. Shoji and Misaki
originally met in February 2006 at Deep's "23
Impact," where Misaki floored Shoji with brutal striking before
eventually finishing the fight via guillotine in just 2:32. Shoji
has not competed since the last-ever
Pride event in April 2007, when he was knocked out by Gilbert Yvel
in the first round.
Perhaps realizing their second encounter is one in which a win
would be difficult, a somber but determined Shoji claimed, "This is
my retirement fight, and I don't want my career to end with any
regrets, so I want this fight to end in kaishaku."
By "kaishaku," Shoji refers to the Japanese ritual suicide,
“seppuku,” in which the person committing suicide has a second
individual assist in chopping off his head, provided he is unable
to completely disembowel himself.
Falling in line with the drama, an intense Misaki said, "We fought
in February 2006, and that fight made me who I am today. I want to
show a fight with a samurai's soul. I will crush him."
Shoji, a former Chukyo University judo standout, started his MMA
career in 1996 after joining
Wajutsu Keishukai. The undersized Shoji went on to compete 23
times for Pride, where he developed a reputation for his gameness
in challenging much larger and more talented foes, earning the
nickname "Mr. Pride."
Shoji faced a "Who's Who" of MMA, including Igor
Vovchanchyn, Mark Coleman,
Silva, Mauricio Rua
and even giant multiple-time K-1 World Grand
Prix champion Semmy Schilt.
The perpetual underdog also pulled off several upsets, taking wins
over the likes of Guy Mezger and
More recently, Shoji has served as a professional wrestler with
Pride-linked professional wrestling organization Hustle, while also
embarking on his career as an MMA official, regularly serving as a
judge for both Dream and
Deep in the last two years.