Hisae Watanabe Confirms Plans For April ReturnIn the wake of current DEEP Women’s Lightweight (106-Pound) Champion Miku Matsumoto’s abrupt retirement, former champion Hisae Watanabe has officially confirmed plans to return in April. She will face 2009 Girls S-Cup Champion Rena in a shootboxing match on April 11th.

Watanabe had been rumoured to be returning to mixed martial arts in December at Jewels: “Sixth Ring,” but a broken foot suffered during training prevented her from appearing on the card. She engaged in an exhibition kickboxing and MMA match with Megumi Fujii last August.

Watanabe (19-6-0) first announced plans to retire from mixed martial arts in early 2008. During her absence, Watanabe married comic book artist SP Nakatema and had a child, and later appeared in the martial arts-themed movie “High-Kick Girl!” which will be released in select countries in May. However, the urge to compete never went away and, after 20 months away, Watanabe made an appearance in the light-hearted exhibition bout with Fujii. She soon began training for a full-time return.

DEEP and Jewels matchmaker Shigeru Saeki expressed plans to feature Watanabe’s return to professional competition in the months ahead, but an injury suffered in training kept Watanabe off of the “Sixth Ring” card and a timetable for her return to action was unknown. It was first thought that the knockout queen could compete at Jewels: “Seventh Ring” on March 19th, but she will instead return to her kickboxing roots when she faces off with rising star Rena in shootboxing action in April.

In a blog entry on Tuesday, Watanabe stated that she was officially coming out of retirement and had begun training at the Blue Dog Gym. “I’ve changed gyms (fighting out of the Blue Dog Gym now), I’ve changed attitude and I’m running the road to the championship! No way I’m going to lose to these young kids!” she said. It would appear that her sights are set on shootboxing competition for the time being, though a return to MMA for Jewels or DEEP seems highly likely later in the year.

Still just 29 years old and with incredible punching power that saw her rack up 11 victories by knockout in MMA, Watanabe should be a force to be reckoned with when she makes her long-awaited return, though ring rust could be a factor. Aside from the exhibition bout with Fujii, Watanabe has not fought since December of 2007 and a lot has changed since then. She stated that she feels that this is a “new semester” in her pro fighting career and that she will be aiming for a KO victory.

While DEEP may be losing its top female fighter in Miku Matsumoto, the promotion may soon see a return of one of its most popular stars from the past. Watanabe has her sights set on championship gold and there are many intriguing fight possibilities available to her should she return to mixed martial arts competition this year.

Roxanne Modafferi contributed to this article.


(Photo Credit: Sherdog.com)