Rizin Fighting Federation held its first event on Tuesday, Dec 29, from the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, Japan. The Saraba Festival (Farewell Festival) marked the first of two events scheduled for the days leading up to Japan’s honored tradition of holding high level martial arts on New Year’s Eve.
In the main event of the evening, Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba returned to face one of the best Japanese MMA fighters competing today, Shinya Aoki. Aoki had compiled wins over some of the best fighters in the world over his 12-year fighting career. The current ONE Championship lightweight champion had earned titles in Shooto and DREAM with victories over current and former top-10 fighters like Eddie Alvarez, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Gesias Cavalcante, Joachim Hansen, Caol Uno and many more.
The first day of the Rizin Fighting World Grand Prix also featured the quarterfinals of the eight-man 100-kilogram tournament. The eight tournament participants were chosen to represent their promotions from eight different countries around the world. Representatives hailed from Bellator MMA, Jungle Fight, Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW), BAMMA, Bushido Europe and Gladiator Championship Fighting (GCF). The tournament featured a number of former and current champions with the most notable fighters being 2008 Olympic gold medalist Satoshi Ishii, former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and former KSW light heavyweight champion Goran Reljić.
The first event of the three-day Rizin Fighting Federation expo aired live at 1 a.m. ET in Russia on MatchTV. The event will be broadcast on Spike TV in the United States on tape delay on Thursday.