It was announced on Saturday at UFC 212, that one of the biggest names in grappling would be inducted into the UFC Hall Of Fame, despite only having fought for the promotion once. Kazushi Sakuraba will be inducted into the Hall’s Pioneer Wing, alongside Joe Silva, Urijah Faber and Maurice Smith later this Summer.
Saku was, of course, most famous for his time at Pride FC, where the welterweight fought and and often defeated much larger opponents with his supreme grappling skill. Notable wins against infamous fighters such as Quinton Jackson, Kevin Randleman, Vitor Belfort and Kevin Shamrock established his legacy.
It was his titanic battles against several of the Gracies that both earned Saku the title of ‘Gracie Hunter’ and saw him elevated to ‘legendary’ status. He faced Royce Gracie in a 90 minute war that pitted Saku’s Shoot Wrestling against the Gracies’ previously unbeatable Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, with Royce’s corner eventually throwing in the towel on his behalf.
Then, Pride 10 saw Saku face Renzo Gracie – a fight which, famously, saw the previously unbeaten Renzo get his arm broken by Saku via Kimura. The two have since faced one another in a pure grappling match on Metamoris 5.
Upon hearing of the honour, Kazushi Sakuraba said, “I never could have dreamed at that time that one day I would be invited to join the other legends in the UFC Hall of Fame. 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. I believe in my heart this was my purpose in life – and I never stopped pushing the limits of what I can do.”