Yoshihiro Akiyama Dropping to Welterweight

UFC 133 OpenWorkouts-31Hopes to apprentice under GSP

Even prior to his fight with Vitor Belfort at UFC 133, Japanese UFC star Yoshihiro Akiyama was considering a move out of the middleweight division.

After back-to-back losses to Chris Leben and Michael Bisping, the jukoda discussed cutting down to the welterweight ranks with Heavy MMA’s Megan Olivi during open workouts at Joe Hand’s Boxing Gym. Three nights later, Akiyama lost for a third consecutive contest in what now looks to be his last fight in the 185 pound ranks.

Speaking with Japanese outlet Sponichi and first reported domestically by 5th Round, Akiyama announced his intentions to make the move to welterweight, a decision many critics — including UFC President Dana White — believe is long overdue.

A major star in his native Japan, Akiyama has struggled since beginning his career in the UFC. He won a debated split decision over Alan Belcher at UFC 100, and has since dropped his last three contests as calls for him to make this move grew louder.

He has also expressed his deep desire to train with current UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at the TriStar Gym in Montreal. The 14-4 Akiyama was forced to close his Cloud Dojo prior to facing Belfort as a result of issues with a former manager, and said he would like to “apprentice” under St-Pierre in the champion’s home base in Montreal.

Considered by many to be too small to challenge in the 185 pound ranks, Akiyama’s sharp striking, proven power and outstanding grappling credentials could make him an instant threat in the 170 pound division.