As the UFC continues to expand its roster, it’s become more of a necessity for the serious MMA fan to be aware of the talent outside the Zuffa borders.
The casual fan will often fall into the trap of thinking that all of the best fighters fight in the UFC. This may one day be the case, but it is not currently a reality. In particular, there are still a lot of really good fighters in the lighter weight classes who have not yet made their way into the octagon.
One of those aforementioned fighters is Hatsu Hioki. This is a primer to hopefully get you better acquainted with one of the better "little guys" in the sport.
Hioki fights at 145 lbs (featherweight). His record is 24-4-2. He holds noteworthy wins over Rumina Sato, Marlon Sandro, Masanori Kanehara, Lion Takeshi, Mark Hominick and Jeff Curran. Hioki has fought for Pride Fighting, Sengoku, and Shooto (under whose banner he currently fights). He is currently ranked by Sherdog as being the #2 featherweight in the world.
If you pay attention to ESPN’s Jon Anik (and you should), you’ve certainly heard him preaching the gospel of Hioki. Anik isn’t the only fight fan making the case for the UFC to sign Hioki. The matchup of Hioki vs. Aldo Jr. is potentially very exciting.
So why is Hioki not in the UFC yet? According to UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby, it’s only a matter of time. "If Hioki wanted in the UFC, I would be happy to have him," said Shelby. "Because of the way the merger is, my roster is full. I wasn't looking to add talent until June or July, but I would make room for Hioki at any point." (source: MMAFighting)
It looks to be a potentially intriguing summer of talent signing and moves by Zuffa. With all the speculation regarding certain Strikeforce fighters coming over to the UFC, as well as Sengoku remnants who continue to garner interest, the possibilities for fights at 145 and 135 continue to grow in number.
Don’t sleep on Hioki! If you get a chance, do yourself a favor and check out some of his highlights on YouTube. You’ll be glad you did.
Article first published as Getting to Know Hatsu Hioki on Technorati.