The Japan-South Korea rivalry will be rekindled on April 20, 2018 as Masakazu “Ashikan Judan” Imanari, 42, is slated to take on former world title contender “Ottogi” Dae Hwan Kim, 31, inside the five-rope ONE Championship ring. They will face each other on the undercard of “ONE: Heroes of Honor” at the 20,000-seater SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
“ONE: Heroes of Honor” is the 13th event of ONE Championship in Manila. It will be Kim’s seventh bout in the promotion and Imanari’s fourth.
Kim currently has 12 wins and 3 losses and is fighting out of Seoul, South Korea. On the other hand, Imanari has 36 wins and 17 losses and is fighting out of Tokyo, Japan.
Relations between Japan and South Korea have been strained ever since the Second World War, spilling over into other territories such as sports. In the constantly-growing world of martial arts, the patriotic rivalry between these two nations has played itself out in rings or cages across Asia for almost two decades.
Several traditional forms of martial arts could trace its origins in Japan, but many people tend to forget that the country likewise served as one of the starting points of mixed martial arts. Japan was once considered the apex of modern-day mixed martial arts.
In the early 1990s, the sport was growing all over the world as several locations across the globe were beginning to lay the foundation. With Brazil and the United States indoctrinating the beauty of style versus style in the west, the sport’s stomping ground in the eastern hemisphere was in Japan.
Japan has a strong history of mixed martial arts as the country has given birth to heaps of legendary promotions such as Pancrase, Shooto, DREAM and PRIDE. From fearless strikers to elite submission grapplers, the country also provided the sport with a long list of extraordinary talents.
Meanwhile, South Korea sparked its own mixed martial arts renaissance in 2003 with the establishment of the now-defunct Spirit Martial Challenge. Since having its first local mixed martial arts organization through Spirit Martial Challenge, the sport in the country has grown in leaps and bounds, paving the way for the founding of the locally-loved Road Fighting Championship and the influx of homegrown competitors.
Combatants from Japan and South Korea have shared the battlefield on numerous occasions. Both countries are staking their claims as the ultimate powerhouse of mixed martial arts in Asia.
Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, 30, of the Philippines and Andrew Leone, 28, of the United States will headline “ONE: Heroes of Honor.” Watch the teaser here: