Akira Yamane Launches “SPIRIT” for Youth in Mixed Martial Arts | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Akira Yamane Launches “SPIRIT” for Youth in Mixed Martial Arts

Mr. Yamane, who will turn 83 this year, is the president of the professional boxing organization "WYBC. He reveals his thoughts on the establishment of a new mixed martial arts tournament.

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Yamane (far left), Takahashi (center), and Ensen, founders of the mixed martial arts tournament “SPIRIT,” are preparing for the September event at a rapid pace.

“In all sports, the lucky ones get the best opportunities, but there are many who are left out. I want to bring these athletes out into the sunlight.”

Akira Yamane, 82, chairman of the professional boxing organization “WYBC,” spoke of his dream to the reporters of this magazine in high spirits. On September 4, the first SPIRIT tournament will be held in Kameoka, Kyoto, with four fights scheduled, and Takahashi will appear in the main event. He has already been contacted by fighters from all over Japan who would like to participate in the event.


Yamane, who has devoted his life to boxing, wonders what thoughts were behind his decision to enter the world of mixed martial arts at the age of over 80. Together with Ensen and Takahashi, he revealed his current thoughts.

Yamane: “I want to give the younger generation a chance. As for me, even though I am over 80 years old, that is still the happiest I can be. I don’t know how long people live. We don’t know when we will pass away. I’m getting to that age. While I’m alive, I want to leave something for the younger generation of mixed martial arts.”

Ensen: “I have a strong bond with Takahashi, I have known him since he was in junior high school. As for myself, I wanted to help him with anything related to mixed martial arts.”

The three attended the press conference to establish the new tournament. Takahashi is scheduled to face Francis José Mejía (39, Peru), a former champion of England’s Bare Knuckle Fighting.

The whole thing was kicked off by the charity work that Takahashi had been doing.

Takahashi said, “I was the same way, but I had no job. I have no money. But I have time on my hands. When that happens, people do bad things. Because of the circumstances of my family, I couldn’t do anything about it. There are children in the world who are struggling. I started taking care of such children who were misbehaving in Kyoto, and the number gradually increased to about 60. I had them train at my gym. Before I joined the “WYBC,” I started an organization called “Bone Crush” and competed in the main event myself. I did all the ticket sales, venue bookings, and the so-called box office myself.”

It was through these activities that he became acquainted with Mr. Yamane. Takahashi’s activities fit perfectly with Yamane’s desire to “shine a light on talent that has not yet seen the light of day.”

Takahashi said, “Chairman Yamane is truly a good man. I told him I would give all my ticket money. But no matter how many times I insisted, he would just say, ‘No, I don’t want that.’ He is really cool.”

Yamane said, “I think there are a lot of young fighters who have been left out of the fight for various reasons. I want to pull such people from all over Japan and have them become stars in the martial arts.”

It was Ensen who proposed the tournament.

Takahashi: “I was the one who bridged the gap between the two. I have experience as both a fighter and an organizer, so I told Ensen that I was confident that I could manage the event while also being a fighter.”

Ensay: “Because you think it’s impossible to be two-faced like that!”

Takahashi “But when I told him, he immediately agreed with me. Then Ensen suggested that we start a new mixed martial arts tournament. After that, the three of us decided to work together.”

Ensen has been named as the organizer of “SPIRIT” in September. Finally, we asked him about his enthusiasm for the first tournament in September.

Ensen: “Winning and losing is the most important thing in martial arts nowadays. But I will show my guts and heart by putting my life on the line. That is what excites the fans. I want to gather gutsy fighters from all over the world and make this a tournament where hearts collide and souls are shown.”

Takahashi: “I’ll show you a fierce match. Please look forward to it.”

Yamane: “I will soon be 83 years old, but I love martial arts. This tournament is not big by any means, but I want to bring up the younger generation that has been left unexplored.”

With new friends, Yamane’s dream for the youth continues.

The three men pose for a photo in Imazato Shinchi, Ikuno Ward, Osaka City.
  • Photo Kei Kato

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