Hidehiko Yoshida Announces April RetirementFormer PRIDE and Sengoku star Hidehiko Yoshida will retire on April 25th. J-Rock entertainment announced today that the Japanese legend will compete in mixed martial arts for the final time in the headlining bout at an event known as “Astra.” Yoshida’s opponent has not yet been named.

The 40-year-old Yoshida cited a deterioration in his physical capabilities and apologised to the fans for no longer being able to compete at his best. The seven-year veteran planned to retire on New Year’s Eve, but will compete one more time at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo.

Yoshida (9-7-1) rose to fame in Pride Fighting Championships after debuting in MMA with an armbar victory over fellow legend Don Frye at PRIDE 23 in 2002. The 1992 Olympic gold medallist in judo would remain undefeated until a competitive bout with future PRIDE champion Wanderlei Silva in late 2003. Yoshida later fought to a draw with Royce Gracie and battled Silva to a second razor-thin decision loss.

Time began to take its toll on Yoshida’s career by 2006 and he dropped back-to-back fights to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović and James Thompson. Following PRIDE’s closure, Yoshida joined the upstart Sengoku faction and went 1-2 in the promotion, with losses to former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett and Grabaka head Sanae Kikuta. He most recently competed at K-1 Dynamite!! 2009 and shocked the viewing audience by upsetting fellow judo gold medallist Satoshi Ishii, who is 17 years Yoshida’s junior.

Yoshida will not be the only familiar face on the “Astra” card. Fellow PRIDE veterans and Yoshida Dojo members Kazuhiro Nakamura, Makoto Takimoto and Michihiro Omigawa will all compete at the April event. Undefeated Yoshida Dojo knockout artist Tatsunao Nakagura is also expected to fight on the card and there are plans to feature talent from DREAM and Strikeforce, if possible.

World Victory Road Director Takahiro Kokuho has stated that he is working to have the Astra event broadcast on SkyperfecTV pay-per-view in Japan and plans to air the event internationally are also in place. Yoshida is one of the most popular mixed martial artists in all of Japan and his impact on the sport in the Land of the Rising Sun has been undeniable.


(Photo Credit: Sherdog.com)