RIZIN Fighting Federation leader, Nobuyuki Sakakibara has claimed that the Japanese promotion would be open to the possibility of bringing the decorated, Alistair Overeem back to Asia for the first time since December of 2010 — if “the numbers make sense” for the organization.
Overeem, a one-time UFC heavyweight championship challenger saw his ten-year stay with the organization come to a surprising end last night, following his removal from the official rankings. Joining former champion and opponent, Junior dos Santos in the latest round of cuts, Overeem leaves the UFC despite retaining two fights on his contract.
Most recently featuring just four weeks ago in the main event of UFC Vegas 18 at the UFC Apex facility, Overeem, who admitted he was hoping to make one final push toward the ever-elusive heavyweight championship, seen his two-fight rise snapped by Russian kickboxer, Alexander Volkov in a one-sided second round knockout loss.
A whopping sixty-seven fight professional veteran, the 40-year-old striking ace featured in Japan on twenty-five of those occasions — winning the now-defunct, DREAM heavyweight championship in his final appearance in Saitama with a nineteen-second knockout win over UFC alum, Todd Duffee.
Speaking with Bleacher Report and South China Morning Post reporter, Tom Taylor following Overeem’s release, the above mentioned Sakakibara claimed that Rizin would be interested in offering Overeem the chance to finish his career in Japan — suggesting a New Year’s Eve appearance at Saitama Super Arena would make sense for the veteran.
“Alistair (Overeem) has taken a tremendous roll in building the sport both here in Japan, and all over the world,” Sakakibara said. “I remember going to Holland to sign Valentijn Overeem, and saw a 17-year-old Alistair in the gym and decided to sign him on the spot.“
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe he made his professional debut in Japan at the Korakuen Hall under THE BEST promotion in a hexagon ring against Takada Dojo’s Imamura. Crazy matchmaking now that I think of it, but that’s where his career started. He was still a skinny kid. But I still remember that impact when I first saw him at the gym in Holland. With that being said, I do have a soft spot for Alistair and if he desires, I think it would make sense for him to retire in Japan.”
“We will be kicking this year off with the RIZIN 27 event on March 21st. in Nagoya, but we do plan to have around seven events this year, obviously ending it at Saitama Super Arena on NYE. Maybe that would be something that could make sense.“
Remaining coy on any possible deal, Sakakibara joked that Overeem should do his old friends a favour and take a fight-purse similar to the one he received earlier in his career. But if terms between the two made sense, Rizin would be interested in penning Overeem to a deal.
“He (Overeem) would obviously need to understand the current Japanese market and his value for all of this to happen though,” Sakakibara said. “He should do us an old friend’s favour and fight for the amount he made (on) his debut in like old times.”
“All jokes aside, I would have no problem working with him if the numbers make sense for us, and I’m sure there will be many fans who would want to see him end his career in Japan“.
A former Strikeforce heavyweight champion and K-1 Grand Prix victor to boot — Overeem has managed to lodge career victories over the likes of Vitor Belfort (x2), Igor Vovchanchyn, Sergei Kharitonov, Mark Hunt (x2), Fabricio Werdum (x2), Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson, Junior dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski, Sergei Pavlovich and Walt Harris.