Yoshida’s Retirement Bout to Headline ‘Astra’ Event


TOKYO -- Japanese entertainment management group J-Rock announced Monday that it will host a one-time MMA event called “Astra” dedicated to the retirement of J-Rock client Hidehiko Yoshida.

The show will be held at the 14,000-seat Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on April 25. Yoshida, a 1992 Olympic judo gold medalist and Japanese MMA superstar, will headline against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.

“As a long-time judo athlete, the Nippon Budokan is a very special venue for me,” Yoshida said. “There's something special about ending my career there.”

Yoshida indicated physical deterioration over the course of his nearly eight-year career as the impetus behind his retirement decision.

“I wanted to announce my retirement on New Year's Eve, but so many things were happening with Dynamite and Sengoku that I just couldn't do it then,” he said. “As I continued fighting, I was feeling sorry for the fans that came out and paid to see me, even though I could not physically perform at my very best to satisfy them.”

The card will also feature a host of Yoshida's pupils: UFC and Pride veteran Kazuhiro Nakamura, 2000 Sydney Games judo gold medalist Makoto Takimoto, standout featherweight Michihiro Omigawa and unbeaten prospect Tatsunao Nagakura.

J-Rock President and former World Victory Road Director Takahiro Kokuho stated that Astra would feature nine or 10 bouts and could include fighters from other promotions such as Dream or Strikeforce.

“There are so many fighters I'd like to fight against,” Yoshida said. “I don't know if my wish will come true, but my most interesting fight was against Wanderlei Silva. I know it wouldn't be possible now, but I'd like to have a retirement bout as exciting as that one was against whomever I do end up fighting.”

One of 2009's breakout fighters, Yoshida understudy Michihiro Omigawa tabbed WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and Dream featherweight champion Bibiano Fernandes as the fighters he would most like to face.

Broadcast details for Astra were also tentative. Kokuho claimed to be working out a deal with Japanese premium cable network Skyperfect TV for a pay-per-view broadcast. Kokuho also said he is planning to broadcast the event internationally, but he could not comment on specifics.

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