Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama’s arrival in ONE Championship may have come as a surprise to many, but he says he has some unfinished business in his mixed martial arts career.
The 43-year-old Japanese-Korean legend has competed all over the world, and is ending a three-and-a-half-year hiatus to step into the highest level of competition in the middleweight division.
He hopes his return to action can inspire fans across the globe and bring him a ONE World Title.
For a man who has accomplished so much in his career, he says he is still inspired by the challenge of competition.
“This is a challenge to myself,” he says.
“I want to feel the happiness I’ve always felt by competing in martial arts.”
During his career, Akiyama has gone from merely being a popular athlete to a genuine celebrity.
It is something that the man known as “Sexyama” has embraced as it has taken his career far beyond the boundaries of martial arts competition and broadened his horizons as a result.
“There have been more opportunities to see people with a variety of backgrounds,” he explains.
“Meeting these different types of people motivates and encourages me beyond my capacity as an athlete.
“I have been in TV shows, talk shows, dramas, movies, and a singer in Korea and in Japan. Maybe it’s a little too early to talk about all these shows at the moment, but I like being in the public eye. It’s good for me, and I really enjoy it.”
Despite all of his other endeavors, nothing seems to satisfy “Sexyama” quite like testing himself in martial arts.
Now, three and a half years removed from his last competitive appearance, Akiyama says he is ready to return to the cage in The Home Of Martial Arts, and he will join its middleweight ranks, where some of the best athletes in the world await him.
Despite being in the veteran stage of his career, Akiyama says he is ready to surprise the martial arts world by taking on opponents who will be significantly younger than him.
“It takes more time to recover these days, but I intend to change nothing from when I was younger and train to that level, despite my current age,” he says.
“I will be 44 years old in 2019, but every fan can expect me to perform in a way that does not look like a 44-year-old man.
“Hopefully, my performance will motivate and inspire everyone who watches me compete.”
Akiyama’s return to action coincides with the most exciting era in ONE history.
The world’s largest martial arts organization is set to break new ground with its first shows in Japan in 2019, beginning with ONE: A NEW ERA on 31 March.
The Asian Games judo gold medalist would love to compete in the Ryogoku Kokugikan as part of the most stacked bout card in history, but seeing as that is little more than a month away, he is targeting another historic event – ONE’s South Korean debut.
“I was born in Japan, and my home country is Korea. I love both countries,” he says.
“With ONE heading to both Tokyo and Seoul, it means I have the opportunity to return the favor to my supporters and fans in both of my beloved two countries.
“If possible, I would like to participate in both nations, but timing-wise, it may be in Korea, to begin with.
“I think that competing in front of my fans in both nations would encourage and inspire many people – hopefully as many as possible!”
Inspiring others is only part of the motivation for Akiyama. His competitive fire that powered his rise to superstardom in his mixed martial arts career still burns strongly today.
“My goal is being the champion, and making martial arts even bigger in Asia through my endeavors with ONE Championship,” he adds.
Still harboring a thirst for success and a desire to inspire others, Akiyama is ready to return and thrill the fans once again.
He is grateful for the opportunity, and he hopes to repay ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong by helping to grow The Home Of Martial Arts across the world.
“I sincerely appreciate Chatri very much. He welcomed me into the ONE Championship family,” he says.
“It is my hope that in the weeks and months ahead, people will agree that ONE Championship will be a better place for having me around!”