Yoshihiro Akiyama has won the hearts of fans all across the globe with his championship judo and mixed martial arts performances. But “Sexy Yama” is a household name for more than just his athletic prowess.
The 44-year-old ONE Championship superstar is absolutely bursting with personality, which naturally led him to a second career in acting.
Akiyama landed his first role in the Korean drama Athena: Goddess Of War in 2010, and he appeared in movies, variety shows, reality television programs, and music videos in the years that followed.
The Japanese-Korean legend has become a respected thespian, but he had a lot of inspiration along the way. Here are some of the movies and television shows that have influenced him the most. Also, “Sexy Yama” reveals the starring role he wishes he could have had.
Comedy – Mrs. Doubtfire
In 1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire, comedy and acting genius Robin Williams portrayed a newly divorced voice actor who disguised himself as an old Scottish nanny in order to keep seeing his children.
Akiyama was thoroughly impressed by the actor’s ability to pull off this role.
“When [Robin] plays the role of a father dressed as a female housekeeper, I loved that,” he confesses. “It was a fun and great performance. I thought it would be great if I could do something like that.”
However, the Japanese-Korean celebrity’s biggest takeaway from the film was the power of the family bond. “Sexy Yama” just fell in love with Williams’ ability to weave comedy into a tough and dramatic situation.
“It showed the father’s strong love for his kids in a lighthearted way,” the legend continues. “He is disguised as a woman, but you can see through it in the way that he cares for his kids.”
Romance – Titanic
Titanic is one of the most successful movies in history.
Released in 1997 and inspired by the actual sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912, the romance drama shook Akiyama to the core.
The passionate mixed martial artist was mesmerized by the magnitude of the James Cameron production and the power of love over status and wealth.
“I think anybody would love this movie, but the best thing about it is a poor young man finding love with a high society woman. It’s not about money, it’s about love,” he explains.
“Titanic is on such a magnificent scale and it’s based on a true story, so to be in something so great would have been amazing.”
The film won 11 Oscars at the 70th Academy Awards and was the highest-grossing film of all time for more than a decade (it was topped by Cameron’s Avatar in 2009, and then Avengers: Endgame overtook both movies in 2019).
Anime – The Kabocha Wine
Akiyama is a self-professed animation lover who enjoys everything from Disney to Ghibli. However, it is the Japanese brand of anime that connects with him the most.
“I love Kinnikuman, Fist Of The North Star, and Dragon Ball,” he quickly offers.
But there is one anime he is completely fascinated by, and that is The Kabocha Wine. The program, which ran from 1982 through 1984, is a romantic comedy animation series that allured him with its quirky boy-girl relationship.
“The Kabocha Wine is a really strange story about a small boy and his big girlfriend,” he explains. “It’s a very standard animation, but I grew up watching stuff like that, so it always feels nostalgic.”
Most Impressive Performance – The Wolf Of Wall Street
Of all the productions that have moved Akiyama, 2013’s The Wolf Of Wall Street is the one that struck his acting chord.
Based on a true story, The Wolf Of Wall Street is a three-hour crime drama that is directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese.
It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays the role of Jordan Belfort, a successful stockbroker who falls into a downward spiral.
Akiyama was immensely moved by DiCaprio’s intense performance, which earned him the award for ‘Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical Or Comedy’ at the 71st Golden Globe Awards.
“I’m not sure if I could, but of all these, I’d want to play in a success story like The Wolf Of Wall Street,” the Japanese-Korean athlete says.
“I heard that after shooting the film, DiCaprio couldn’t take another role for a while because he had been so immersed in his character.
“His performance was so realistic, especially the scene when he is still a new hire and learning from his boss, and later when he is giving a speech to his colleagues to motivate them. He was just so real!”
Bonus – Thoughts On Horror Films
Does Akiyama like Paranormal Activity? The Shining? It? No, no, and no.
Chances are, you will never see “Sexy Yama” attend a movie premiere for a horror film. “I really don’t like scary movies,” he says. “Honestly, I don’t watch them.”
The Japanese-Korean legend tried watching a horror film during his childhood, but it was a little bit too frightening for him.
Now, even as an adult, he still dislikes the movies and television shows in this specific genre.
“I watched Friday The 13th when I was a kid, and I just couldn’t watch anything like that again. Just too scary,” he adds. “The Walking Dead, too – just hearing about it makes me not want to watch it!”