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Hatsu Hioki UFC bound?

Crow_Time2011-06-10 00:22:09 +0000 #1
If all goes well, the UFC could have all the top-ranked featherweight talent locked up by next month.

Japanese featherweight Hatsu Hioki turned down an offer to fight featherweight champion Hiroyuki Takeya at DREAM.17 and on Tuesday announced that he's vacating his Shooto lightweight title.

Shu Hirata, an associate of Hioki who represents several Japanese fighters, today told (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps . that the fighter is headed to UFC 131 as a guest, and all signs point to contract negotiations.

"I think he's going to have a sit-down with (UFC matchmaker) Sean Shelby and try to work out a deal," Hirata said.

Hioki wrote about his decision to relinquish the belt in a statement issued to the media.

"There is ... pride in wearing the Shooto world title, but I think that in the near future I would like to challenge a new stage of pride," he stated.

The manager said Shooto's official rules require a champion to defend his title every six months. However, that stipulation is not in the promotion's contracts, and the fighter's announcement is simply a courteous gesture to his former employer.

Hioki is also the Sengoku featherweight champion and has a contract with its promoter, World Victory Road. His deal has one fight remaining on it, yet it's unknown whether the promotion will ever return given serious financial problems its recently suffered. Several of its champions have asked for and been granted release from their contracts, including Jorge Santiago, who held the promotion's middleweight belt before he vacated it for a UFC contract.

"The number of fights they promised is already in breach," Hirata said. "But in Japanese culture, you don't really go an talk about the breach of contract unless you really, really have to.

"I think Hioki had to choose a political clearance by choosing the right time to vacate the (Shooto) belt and choosing the right time to tell Sengoku that he's going to the U.S. to negotiate."

Hioki (24-4-2) won the Shooto belt one year ago by defeating "Lion" Takeshi Inoue by split decision. This past December, he added the Sengoku belt to his mantle with a unanimous-decision win over the highly touted Marlon Sandro. He long has been considered one of the best fighters at 145 pounds.

Crow_Time2011-06-10 00:36:28 +0000 #2
I'm not normally high on Japanese fighters coming over from Japan... But anyone that can beat Marlon Sandro is pretty freaking good.



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