Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua’s UFC Japan return cancelled after further knee injury
Local fighter Yushin ‘Thunder’ Okami will step in to replace the Brazilian
The Shogun’s return to Japan has been put on hold with news breaking Sunday morning that Mauricio Rua had reinjured his wobbly knee and has been forced to pull out of this coming Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 117.
The Brazilian one-time UFC light heavyweight champion (25-10) had been lined up for a rematch with American Ovince Saint Preux (20-10) as the headline bout on the card set down for the Saitama Super Arena, as the Las Vegas-based promotion makes its return to Japan after two years.
With Rua now out, the UFC has turned to the veteran Yushin “Thunder” Okami (34-10) and offered the local favourite a golden opportunity to re-ignite his career in the world’s top promotion after having cut him loose back in September 2013.
Since then, the 36-year-old Okami has taken on the role of a roving prize fighter, his record of 5-2 over the past four years including bouts with the World Series of Fighting (now known as the Professional Fighters League), Deep and Pancrase.
Okami will line up against Saint Preux buoyed by a 4-0 steak – and the hope of another long-term contract with the UFC.
The UFC will be hoping his presence maintains interest in a card robbed of a much-anticipated rematch between Rua and Saint Preux after the American had knocked the Brazilian out just 34 seconds into their first clash at UFC Fight Night 56 in 2014.
The fact that American superstar Jon Jones (22-1, one no contest) had his light heavyweight title win over Daniel Cormier (19-1, one no contest) in July stripped after a failed drug test has thrown the division wide open and both Rua (ranked fifth) and Saint Preux (sixth) had hoped the Japan gig might push them up the pecking order.
Okami fought his way up through the ranks of Japan’s Pride and Pancrase organisations through the early 2000s before signing on with the UFC in 2006. He faced the likes of former middleweight champions Rich Franklin and Evan Tanner before being given a title shot against then-champion Anderson Silva at UFC 134, losing to the Brazilian by TKO in the second round.
The decision to cut Okami loose back in 2013 had raised eyebrows given his consistent run against the UFC’s marquee names – and the fact his overall career included a win over Silva, one of MMA’s all-time greats, when both fighters were plying their trade in the now-defunct Rumble on the Rock cards, run out of Hawaii. The Kawasaki native now has a great opportunity to set himself and his talents back in the spotlight.