Who hear loves Japanese MMA? Raise your hands! Okay, so that is basically everyone who reads this site. So, let’s take a look back at a great Japanese match that is also one of my favorite fights of all time.
Back when I used to be in the tape-trading scene in the very late 90’s, I got my hands on a lot of compilation tapes that had random Japanese fights. After awhile, I started to recognize some names and faces, but I was still new to the sport, especially to Japanese MMA. One random tape called “The Best of Shootfighting” was one of my favorite VHS’ for years to come, and it had a ton of great fights from America, Brazil, Russia and Japan. One of those fights is the one we are talking about today.
From June 27, 1998 in Tokyo, Japan, I give you Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Tsuyoshi Kohsaka from “Rings – Fourth Fighting Integration”! Rings was founded by Akira Maeda in 1991 as an off-shoot of UWFI, in that it was meant to showcase pro-wrestling but with a shoot style look to it. In other words, pre-determined fighting, but not like pro wrestling in that this was based in more actual grappling and striking as opposed to body slams and elbow drops. It wasn’t until when Maeda left the company in the late 90’s to pursue other things (which we will talk about another day) that the company was forced to become a real fighting organization in order to compete with the new Pride FC and surge in shootfighting popularity in Japan. One of the earliest real (or closer to real) matches was between Tsuyoshi Kosaka and the star of RINGS, Kiyoshi Tamura.
These two had actually met earlier on April 22, 1997, where Tamura won by a toe hold almost half-way through the match, but whether this was real or not I can not tell you officially sadly. Heck, even this match was on the cusp, but I honestly don’t care. This match was great and back when I knew very little of submission fighting, my eyes were immediately opened after seeing these two hit the mats. I kid you not, I probably watched this match every day for the first month that I got it, and it’s one of the matches that really made me fall in love with grappling.
RINGS thrived until 2002, but in that time they still managed to start the careers of many huge fighters, including Randy Couture, Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Dan Henderson, Renato Sobral and many more. If you are unfamiliar with the company, check them out on the usual video sites, but make sure the fights are from 97-02 to guarantee they are legit! Enjoy the fight!