If you are like most of us, the Japanese tradition of New Year’s Eve kakutougi is an important one and you’ve been pretty bummed the past few years at the lack of accessible events. Maybe we all got spoiled when HDNet/AXS TV was airing DREAM and K-1 shows live for us when they lasted, but man, those were some good times. While PRIDE and DREAM may be dead, Japan always pulls something out of their collective hat for New Year’s Eve and Antonio Inoki has been doing his damnedest to be the guy keeping it alive.
Inoki Genome Federation is Inoki’s dream of professional wrestling made into a reality, just ten or twenty years too late. What was that dream? Inoki dreamed that professional wrestling would be real fighting and even is seen as one of the fathers of modern Mixed Martial Arts. He actually holds more of a claim to being in the lineage of MMA than Bruce Lee ever had. After Inoki left New Japan he had a few things fall through, but Inoki Genome Federation is a weird amalgamation of professional wrestling, Japanese kickboxing and MMA.
So on New Year’s Eve Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic will fight in an actual MMA bout, defending his Inoki Genome Federation Heavyweight Championship against a yet-to-be-named opponent. Now, if you want to understand the blurred lines of IGF and the IGF Heavyweight Championship, look no further than its lineage. The first champion was former K-1 fighter Jerome Le Banner, crowned champion after Josh Barnett couldn’t make a scheduled appearance. Le Banner then defended the title in professional wrestling bouts where he saw five defenses.
The man to usurp Le Banner (in professional wrestling) was former PRIDE fighter and New Japan wrestler Kazuyuki Fujita. Fujita defended the title numerous times in professional wrestling, then on New Year’s Eve of last year, he went to defend the title against Satoshi Ishii (the not-exactly-savior of MMA in Japan). Well, Satoshi Ishii, the 26 year old Judo Olympian-turned-MMA fighter defeated the 42 year old former fighter and pro wrestler, crowning Ishii as the new champion. In August of this year Cro Cop met Ishii in what was billed as legitimate MMA fight against Ishii to be crowned the fourth champion.
So, ideally, Cro Cop is a legitimate MMA champion right now, although the belt was in the past contested under professional wrestling rules. Confused yet? Who cares, it’s awesome! Josh Barnett is scheduled to be at IGF’s NYE event as well, but because he’s signed to UFC he can’t participate in a MMA fight, so he’ll be pro wrassling.
Inoki Bom Ba Ye!
I hope to hell that Peter Aerts wrestles at this show.