Very much like for everyone else, this has been a tricky year for the combat sports industry as many promoters have had to postpone or even cancel cards and Shuichiro Katsumura is no exception. Katsumura is an ex-professional MMA fighter turned promoter most known for beating Masakatsu Ueda back in 2010 by Ninja Choke and while it might not be a successful year as such, he has adapted incredibly well to the current circumstances. He has put together several excellent (no-gi sub-only) grappling events including the 60, 65, 75 and 90kg GTF championship tournaments,
Because there has not been much else going on, these cards were stacked with talent from the current generation and up-and-coming Japanese grapplers. It is the same story for the next event that Shuichiro Katsumura is in charge of, the ‘Battlehazard 8’ that is headlined by a fight between Masakazu Imanari and Kenta Iwamoto.
Hoping for an insight I went and had a chat to Katsumura.
Describing His Vision For the Card, He Told Me This:
I only make fights and matches I want to see myself. Whatever I think will be fun I try to make. There are many MMA promotions in Japan but not that many no-gi events. What I am trying to do differently is sneak in grappling. To show the audiences grappling is a fun thing to watch too. And of course, promote it as the beautiful sport that it is.
About the Main Event, He Says:
Imanari is at a point where he is aware of his abilities. I don’t think that he will complete in the ADCC or any other similar tournaments. He has done enough. He already is a legend. Iwamoto is probably the strongest Japanese no-gi grappler at the moment, but there is no reference point to imagine how far he will go (yet). That is why I thought that this match must happen now. Now is the best time to do it.
On the High-Profile Match Between Daiki Yonekura and Yuki Takahashi:
Yonekura told me that since he started doing leg locks, it has improved his whole game. Guard passing to other submissions. Yonekura says that he has not been able to show anything other than leg locks recently. He hopes that Takahashi will take him deeper.
I like Takahashi because he is very aggressive. Even his is name includes ‘submission’. He is an MMA fighter who uses the rubber-guard. I am interested in how it plays out.
What about the tournament?
The women’s GTF under 52kg tournament is on the card as well. The favourite is Sugiuchi. She is strong enough to submit male black-belts.
What about the future?
I am planning one or two more tournaments this year. The winner gets to challenge the current GTF champions. I have an idea. I have not told this anybody else, but I want to make a Carpe Diem (one of the top BJJ gyms in the world) vs Igloo (home of three current GTF champions). A five on five sub-only setting.
The second part of the event created by Shuichiro Katsumura is the ZST 69 card and the main bout is Seiichiro Ito v Yuta Hamamoto. A few weeks ago we saw Ito as a member of Team Wolf at Quintet fight night. In preparation for the fight, he told me that he plans to use this as an opportunity to show off his submission skills and cut his losing streak. The other part of the matchup is Hamamoto a Lethwei fighter, making the fight potentially the classic striker vs submission artist bout.