If Hatsu Hioki isn’t a name that’s familiar to you, it will be within the next twelve months.
Hioki began competing in mixed martial arts in 2002 and over the past nine years has collected a 24-4-2 record with notable victories over Jeff Curran, Rumina Sato, Lion Takeshi, Masanori Kanehara and Marlon Sandro just to name a few.
2010 proved to be a good year for Hioki who captured both the Shooto Lightweight Championship and Sengoku Featherweight Championship as well as four straight victories.
Hioki was rumored to face DREAM’s featherweight king Hiroyuki Takeya at DREAM 17 on July 16th however he turned down the bout and two days later chose to vacate the Shooto lightweight title.
Hioki issued a statement earlier this week about relinquishing the lightweight title:
"There is ... pride in wearing the Shooto world title, but I think that in the near future I would like to challenge a new stage of pride" he stated.
The Japanese sensation is scheduled to be at next Saturday’s UFC 131 event in Vancouver, British Columbia and will likely speak with match-maker Sean Shelby about bringing him into the organization.
One hurdle we may have to overcome will be that he is currently contracted to World Victory Road’s Sengoku where he is their featherweight Champion.
However, the financial situation of Sengoku is up in the air at this stage and have recently let their bigger named stars in Marlon Sandro, Ronnie Mann and Jorge Santiago out of their contracts to pursue their career Stateside.
Although the UFC seems to be the likely home for the #2 ranked featherweight it’s possible that he could strike a deal with rival promotion Bellator.
Bellator have done a great job to secure international talent and would allow him the freedom to fight in Japan and the lure of winning $100,000 to win a tournament is certainly something to consider.
Whatever happens, be sure to keep your eye out for this talented Japansese prospect who could be the one to dethrone Jose Aldo.