A rematch of the most watched fight in Japan of modern times was the latest bout confirmed for the debut of the Rizin promotion at the end of the year.
Bob Sapp vs. Akebono, a battle between giants who have not fared well as fighters, was announced today by Nobuhiko Takada during prime time network programming on the Fuji television network. Fuji TV will be airing the Rizin debut on 12/31. It will also be airing on Spike in the U.S.
On December 31, 2003, Sapp vs. Akebono in a kickboxing match drew 54 million television viewers on a night with ridiculous television competition. It was Akebono's first fight, after being one of the biggest stars in the history of sumo. Sapp was all over television commercials and the biggest television draw among the fighters at the time.
The two have never rematched even though both have had log tenures since that time as pro wrestlers in Japan. They were on opposite sides in an eight-man tag team match at the January 4, 2013 Tokyo Dome show.
Akebono announced on 11/1 that he was leaving All Japan Pro Wrestling, after losing the Triple Crown to Jun Akiyama. It was widely expected he would be on the debut of the Rizin group. He hasn't fought in nine years. Sapp, who retired as a fighter in 2013, made for the logical opponent.
Inside MMA had reported this match taking place a few weeks ago, but today was the official announcement.