A major sports pioneer has sadly passed at far too young an age.
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto has died at the age of 41 due to complications with cancer.
Legitimizing a New Sport
While the MMA is now considered a mainstream sport, that was far from the case less than two decades ago.
In the early 2000s, the sport had just started to come into the world’s sporting limelight.
It was and is a brutal sport, combining wrestling, boxing, and numerous martial arts techniques.
People were not used to seeing a fighter on the ground getting pounded after being knocked down.
Nor were they used to seeing arms and legs broken for real when someone was in a submission hold.
While early MMA was not quite the WWF in terms of entertainment vs. reality, there were definitely some theatrics in the early years.
Along Comes the “Kid”
Kid’s entrance into the sport was actually inspired by an incident with some local bad guys.
Kid allegedly shot a Yakuza member in the face, but his uncle and MMA fighter got him out of the jam.
He took Kid under his wing and a star was born.
In the early days of the sport, lighter fights were far from the headline grabbers they are today.
As such, it was difficult to find fighters the same size and weight of Kid (5’4”, 150 pounds).
Kid regularly took on much larger fighters and fans of the sport loved him for it.
His skill set coupled with this personality made him a star and more importantly, brought the sport itself into the mainstream.
When Kid was in his prime, he was virtually unbeatable, retiring in 2007 with a 17-1-1 record.
An injury while trying to qualify for the 2008 Olympics should have ended his career, but he came out of retirement soon after.
It was apparent, though, he was no longer the feared fighter he was prior, as his final record of 18-6-2 will attest.
Thank you, Kid, for helping to bring MMA to the mainstream. R.I.P.