Presently, the four primary arts that are used in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) are Western Boxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jujutsu and Greco Roman Wrestling. There are some competitors that have successfully blended in Catch Wrestling, such as Kazushi Sakuraba and Ken Shamrock or Judo, such as Karo Parisyan and Kim Dong Hyun. I know that as MMA evolves there will be many other arts that will be thrown into the mix. Arts such as Japanese Taijutsu, Filipino Dumog and Indonesian Silat have a lot of merit. Surprisingly, I believe that the Japanese sport of Sumo would be a great addition into the mix of MMA.
The physical conditioning methods used to train Sumo wrestlers offer very unique ways to develop power and strength in an MMA competitor. They would make a very welcome addition to the strength and conditioning program of a serious fighter.
The techniques of Sumo would blend in very well with the striking and grappling methods used in the clinching range. They would especially be useful in the Randy Couture way of using ‘Dirty Boxing’ where you pin your opponent up against the cage and batter him with punches, elbows, knees and stomps.
A number of Sumo wrestlers have competed in MMA matches, with limited achievement; perhaps the most successful Sumo wrestler to have competed in MMA is Tadao Yasuda, who holds a record of two wins and four losses. Sumo wrestlers are ineffective in MMA because the sports are vastly different from one another in achieving victory; striking techniques and submissions are required for MMA and neither are taught in Sumo wrestling .A few key Sumo techniques also become ineffective in an MMA event as most participants wear spandex bottoms and the techniques require something to grab, such as the belt of your opponent. A Sumo wrestler would need to train in MMA techniques which has not been the case in the past, as the few Sumo wrestlers of distinction to compete in MMA did so for financial reasons and not a career change.
Other Sumo wrestlers to have fought in MMA bouts include Koji Kitao, Akebono Taro, Wakshoyo, Teila Tuli and Henry Armstrong Miller. Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida also has a Sumo background but his main style is Shotokan Karate Do.
The one thing that we don’t want to model from the world of Sumo is the diet. There’s usually no breakfast, the most common type of lunch served is the traditional “sumo meal” of Chankonabe which consists of a stew which contains various fish, meat, tofu and vegetables. It’s usually eaten with white rice and washed down with beer. This regimen of no breakfast and a large lunch followed by a nap helps Sumo players put on a massive amount of weight very quickly.
The negative effects of the sumo lifestyle become dangerously apparent later in life. Sumo wrestlers have a life expectancy of between 60 and 65, more than 10 years shorter than the average Japanese male. They often develop diabetes, high blood pressure, and are prone to heart attacks. The excessive intake of alcohol can lead to liver problems and the stress on their joints can cause arthritis.
However, the strength and conditioning training as well as many Sumo techniques can be a very effective addition to Mixed Martial Arts.