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Awesome Men Throughout History: Genki Sudo

Brock Lesnar’s retirement from mixed-martial arts and return to professional wrestling has reignited the debate, at least among people I know, about whether or not he should have ever been a part of UFC in the first place. A pro wrestler, some argue, is three parts carny to one part athlete, so they really don’t belong in a legitimate sport like MMA where the gaps in their technique and training regimens are exposed by that level of competition.

The great Genki

Arguments like this, while understandable, ignore the fact that mixed-martial arts is gimmicky as hell. Even disregarding the freakshow fights of early UFC (Yarborough v. Hackey, anyone?) and Kimo Leopoldo bearing a cross to the ring, guys like Nick and Nate Diaz are as loud and brash as any pro wrestling villain, and often for the same reasons: garnering interest in their fights.

However, we’re not here to talk about them. We’re here to talk about a guy whose epic sense of theatrics and undeniable charisma made him an Awesome Man for sure, and one of my favorite mixed-martial arts competitors ever: Genki Sudo.

Born in Tokyo in 1978, Sudo wrestled in high school and picked up Brazilian jiu-jitsu after moving to Los Angeles in the late 1990s. According to Helium’s biography of him, Sudo was something of a peacock, wearing fur coats and walking with an exaggerated swagger to stand out in a crowd, despite being tremendously shy. That flamboyance, paired with his natural athleticism and a competitive spirit, is probably what drove him into mixed-martial arts competition.

Sudo competed in UFC and K-1, and later K-1 HERO’S, where his knack for elaborate entrances really took off. If Skynet had commissioned Daft Punk to build a fighter, it would have been HERO’S-era Genki Sudo. A far cry from the usual meatheads wearing Affliction gear and coming out to crappy metal, Sudo’s entrances were all about pumping techno music, crazy lights, elaborate costumes, and dancers. He had dancers. I mean, how many athletes make themselves known to the crowd by “doing the robot and operating levers that released a column of smoke from the top of his head while wearing a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket as a hat and a white plastic mask, in an homage to the musician, Buckethead”? If Vince McMahon had seen that, he would have had to change his underpants.

Sudo’s fighting techniques were just as fun to watch. He was a good grappler who employed a lot of weird strikes and submissions like spinning backfist and flying leg-triangle choke, and he used to dance in the ring to throw his opponents off their game. And where a lot of goofy guys would get straight-up murdered in the ring, Sudo has a 15-4 record, so his goofiness worked a lot more often than it didn’t.

Sudo retired in 2006, but he’s kept active since then. His management of Takushoku University’s wrestling team has been very successful, he’s done some acting, he’s written eight books of essays (one of which is called Catcher In the Octagon), he’s a musician, and as of 2010, he’s enrolled in graduate school at Takushoku. Not bad, especially when you consider what happens when guys ignore their mounting injuries and stay in the game too long. MMA doesn’t need more Ninja Ruas, ya know?

Anyway, the best way to end any article on Genki Sudo is with a link to one of his crazy pre-fight spectacles. Enjoy.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.


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