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UFC Hall of Fame: Japanese grappler Kazushi Sakuraba joins 2017 class

The UFC announced during its UFC 212 pay-per-view that Japanese fighter Kazushi Sakuraba (26-17-1, 2NC) will be inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame July 6 during International Fight Week as a pioneer era inductee.

Sakuraba, 47, who in his prime competed primarily in PRIDE from 1997 to 2005, is revered by MMA and pro wrestling fans as an innovative lightweight who despite his small size was able to constantly compete with and defeat physically superior opponents.

Known as the “Gracie Hunter,” Sakuraba defeated several members of the legendary Brazilian family, including Royce, Royler and Renzo in memorable matches.

Sakuraba’s love of professional wrestling and his willingness as an amateur and professional wrestler to demonstrate its effectiveness in combat sports endeared him to wrestling fans all over the world.

“Saku” joins Urijah Faber, Maurice Smith, and former company matchmaker Joe Silva in the 2017 inductee class.

“It is my wish to share this honor with everyone in the Japanese martial arts world that, through PRIDE, helped establish an era in fighting sports. I gave everything I could in the gym to perfect myself and my technique so that I could give the fans the kind of spectacle they deserved,” he told “I believe in my heart this was my purpose in life – and I never stopped pushing the limits of what I can do.”


Kenai is a former Postmedia Network online news and sports editor. He is the Editor-in-Chief for MMA Crossfire.

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