MACH Revival Go

Alan Lee
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Hayato Sakurai was born in Ryugasaki City in Ibaraki, Japan, August 24, 1975. In 1988, Sakurai began middle school and joined its judo club. In the following year, Sakurai won the City Championships. After his graduation in 1991, he entered Tsuchiura Nichidai Highschool. In his senior year, Sakurai was a member of the Prefectural Championship Team.

In 1994, after graduating high school, he started competing with All-Japan New Karate, a gloved Karate organization while working on the side. He began training the previous year shortly after ending his school Judo career, after a Karate class invitation from a friend. From reading a 1995 article, he began to take interest in ShootBoxing. ShootBoxing, found by Caesar Takeshi in 1985, is a fightsport which is similar to Muay Thai but includes throws and standing submissions. Sakurai's moved to Tokyo to train at Takeshi's Caesar Gym. In his first Freshman Class (amateur) ShootBoxing bout, he lost via knock out but made a comeback with 2 wins. In 1996, while looking to improve his skills, he wandered into Kiguchi Gym, dojo of the Combat Wrestling founder and a forefather of SHOOTO, Noriaki Kiguchi. Kiguchi was a Freestyle wrestler who had many achievements in his career. With Pro-Wrestling legend Satoru "Tiger Mask" Sayama, they formed the Japanese Shooting Association in 1985, and began the sanctioning of pro fights in 1989, when open finger gloves were adapted.

They would establish rules similar to standard MMA (PRIDE rules) but with a multiple 10-count rule for knockdowns, similar to how it is in Muay Thai or Boxing. Although not the gym he was originally searching for, his training with Kiguchi, and SHOOTO Lightweight (60 - 65 kg) Champion Noboru Asahi, one of Sayama's original trainees was fulfilling to Sakurai. After intensive training, he entered the All-Japan Amateur SHOOTO Championships on July 28, 1996. After numerous victories, he won the All-Japan Amateur SHOOTO Welterweight (65 - 70 kg) Championship when he defeated Wajyutsu Keysyukai's Kaoru (Caol) Uno.

It was during that time, a young 17-year-old kid from Tokyo who was disowned came to Kiguchi Dojo and trained with him, looking up to him as his mentor. The kid was Takanori Gomi, an amateur wrestler who trained boxing before going to Kiguchi's.

Because of Sakurai's success at the tournament he graduated Class-C amateur level and became a licensed pro Class-B SHOOTO fighter. In his pro debut, he again defeated Uno, this time with an armbar in 2:52 of the1st round in the opener of SHOOTO's Let's Get Lost event on October 4, 1996. Around this time, Sakurai began to be called MACH (pronounced Ma-Ha) due to homage towards UWF Pro Wrestler/luchador, MACH Hayato. A year into his career, he ascended to Class-A, a rank with better payoffs and championship title matches. The prospects of championship gold came upon MACH when the vacated MiddleWeight title (70 - 78kg) of Naoki Sakurada, was to be vied for. The World Middleweight Championship match was at Las Grandes Viajes 3 (The Grand Journeys), May 13, 1998, when Mach beat highly-touted Jutaro Nakao, and won the the Championship in his first main event.

The Japanese activewear company DEVILOCK, sponsored a SHOOTO event, at which Mach made his first KO in SHOOTO on Ademir Oliviera, with a move he is now famous for, the Flying Knee, in 39 seconds, on January 15, 1999. In February 1999, MACH travelled to Abu Dhabi, where he competed at the Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling Championship (a submission grappling tournament with rules biased toward BJJ competitors), initially in the 67 - 76 kg Division.

In that division, he beat Andre Pederneiras by an advantage in 15 minutes, and Fabiano Iha with 7 points, before losing to JJ Machado in their semifinal match. However, he won with a 17 second armbar against Eddie Ruiz to win the 3rd place. Due to his placement in the division, he qualified to compete in the Absolute Division, where the champions of the various weight classes competed against one another. MACH defeated Vinicius Magalhaes (Gracie Barra), then Russian Judo/Sambo champion Mourat Ozov via in 10 mins, and then Ricco Rodrigues in 9:55 with a leglock submission.

However, he earned 2nd place in the Absolute Division, as he lost by 2 points in a 20 minute match to Roberto Traven, who outweighed him by about 40 lbs. MACH would continue his MMA win streak with a trip to France where he entered the Golden Trophy, and he defeated James Shiavo (with a flash toehold), Damien Riccio, and Jean Loius Alberch (with a quick armbar submission) to win the tournament.

On SHOOTO's 10th Anniversary Show (the same one where Caol Uno beat RUMINA Sato the first time), May, 29, 1999, MACH defeated Brazil's Marcelo Aguiar. MACH then won back to back decisions against PUREBRED Omiya's Tetsuji Kato and Chute Boxe's Luiz Azeredo. MACH's record at this point was 16-0-2 (18 matches in 4 years, and up to that day, 10 matches in a 24 month period). 2000 also marked MACH's joining of then newly opened Gutsman SHOOTO Dojo, founded by his mentor at Kiguchi's, Naoki Sakurada.

MACH would soon be embroiled in what he considered the toughest fight of his competitive career at SHOOTO's big annual year end show at Tokyo Bay's NK Hall, December 17, 2000, SHOOTO R.E.A.D. Final. That night MACH defended his title against RAW Gym's Frank Triggs. In the first round of the match, Trigg outboxed MACH. Then, during the middle of the round, Trigg takes MACH down and inflicts a Ground and Pound flurry from the Front Mount. However, within the first minute of the 2nd round, MACH hit a jumping knee and scored a knockdown, which lead to a ref count. Trigg was able to make the count but was then floored by some jabs comboed to a Flying Knee KO. In 2001, Hayato MACH Sakurai was booked to fight then-Chute Boxe's Anderson Silva. Silva earned this title shot by defeating top Tetsuji Kato. On Auguest 26, 2001, Anderson Silva and Hayato MACH Sakurai fought three rounds to a decision won unanimously by Anderson Silva. This concluded MACH's defeat-less record with his first MMA defeat. On October 14, 2001, MACH formed his own team and training facility, Shooting Gym Mach Dojo in his hometown. Shortly after opening, an American who trained with him at Gutsman SHOOTO Dojo, Wayne Anthony Huss, became one of the trainers there. Huss was a former millitaryman who came to Japan under a cultural exchange to learn JuJitsu. As he opened his new gym, MACH was training for his return match to SHOOTO action, which took place at the year-end To the Top Final, when he beat Dan Gilbert with a Heel Hook in under 2 minutes.

In March of 2002, MACH was finally given the chance to come to the US, and fight in UFC. Unfortunately, briefly before his match fot the UFC Welterweight Championship (155 - 169 lb) title match, MACH was in a severe automobile accident. However, on March 22, 2002, Hayato MACH Sakurai fought in Las Vegas, in a match which saw MACH floor champion Hughes with a punch, but was TKOed in the middle of the 4th round. MACH was devestated after this but still accepted a fight for SHOOTO, for their year end show at the Tokyo NK Hall, in which, MACH lost a three round decision to Jake Shields. Throughout 2003, MACH worked for the MMA promotion, DEEP.

There he defeated the DEEP Middleweight Champ/ Kiyoshi Tamura pupil, Ryuki Ueyama in his March debut. In June 2003, MACH had his largest win in years after he defeated seasoned veteran Dave Menne, in approximatley 2 minutes of the 2nd round via cut TKO after numerous flying knees. During the second half of the year, Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE) began preparing for the spin-off of their PRIDE shows, BUSHIDO, which would showcase up-and-coming Japanese fighters from the lower weight divisions.

Unfortunately MACH met the punches of an up-and-coming Japanese fighter (and construction worker by day) named Ryo Chonan, and was KOed in DEEP, September 2003, thus missing his PRIDE debut. After receiving medical clearance, MACH debuted for PRIDE, against Daiju Takase, at PRIDE's initial year-end Shockwave 2003. 2004 would be a very mixed year for MACH. In his PRIDE Bushido (2) debut, MACH was unanimously outscored by Rodrigo Gracie in February. After a few months off to recuperate, MACH defeated Team Oyama's Brady Fink in about 4 minutes with a Guilltoine Choke submission at BUSHIDO 4 in July. But in a fast-paced and technical bout in October at the proceding BUSHIDO, Rodrigo's nephew, Crosley Gracie defeated MACH with an armbar during the 2nd round. Unhappy with how his career was going, he did not give up but rather booked a flight to the US, and appear at the doorsteps of AMC Pankration. Located in Kirkland, WA, AMC Pankration is a gym headed by former kickboxer/ wrestler, Matt Hume, who competed in the PANCRASE organization during its inception, and trained top MMA fighters such as Josh Barnett. Hume, who learned much from PANCRASE's founders, MMA/ Pro-Wrestling legends Minoru Suzuki and Masakatsu Funaki, who were students of Yoshiaki Fujiwara, who was the top protege of the legendary wrestler and cardio guru, Karl "Gotch" Istaz.

So thus, Hume worked rigrously with MACH on not only his striking and footwork but also instilling cardiovascular conditioning which would suit his needs during his fights. This was shown in 2005 with his victories against BTT's Milton Viera in PRIDE BUSHIDO and Shinya Aoki in an August SHOOTO show. Aoki, considered a prodigy and a future ace of SHOOTO, was unable to answer any of MACH's technique and renewed confidence.

Hayato MACH Sakurai had a long night, September 25, 2005, the night of PRIDE BUSHIDo's Lightweight GP tournament. In the first round of the tournament, and seventh match of the night, MACH fought an intense match with former UFC Lightweight Champion Jens Pulver. In this match, Pulver and MACH went back and forth strategically with their boxing skills until 8:56 of the 1st round when MACH connected with a hook, knocking Pulver down, and ending with punt kicks. MACH was then matched against Joachin Hansen, former SHOOTO Welterweight Champion.

For 15 minutes, MACH and Hansen went for broke, but because of a hook connecting to to the face of Hansen during the latter segments of the match, MACH earned a unanimous decision victory against the former SHOOTO King. And this all occurred a day and a month after his 30th birthday. New Year's Eve will be a very memorable day in the lives of both Hayato MACH Sakurai, and his opponent that night, his protege, Takanori Gomi.