Korakuen Hall was standing room only for DEEP Haleo Impact on December 22, 2012.  The iconic Japanese MMA theatre, which has been the birthplace for many great fighters, was witness to an historic moment of another kind: Kazuo Misaki‘s retirement. In attendance were legends from every arena: Tatsuya Kawajiri, Satoru Kitaoka, Hayato Sakurai, Hirota Mizuno, Shintaro Ishiwatari, Masakazu Imanari, K-1 fighter Kozo Takeda, and Kyokushin president Kancho Matsui, Shootboxing President Takeshi Shiza – even Yokozuna Hakuho was seated ringside for the occasion.  Of course Team Haleo was in full force: Mazakatsu Ueda, Yasuhiro Urushitani, Riki Fukuda, Roberto Satoshi, Marcos de Souza, Kleber Koike.

The card of eight fights before Misaki’s demo kickboxing bout with Akihiro Gono went very rapidly. After an incredible video showcasing Misaki’s career, he entered from the rear of the stadium to a crowd on its feet with excitement. When he was finally in his corner opposite Gono, the audience let loose a flurry of streamers with shouts of his name and an uproar of thank yous.

Even though it was an exhibition match, both Gono and Misaki cut weight for the event.  They traded light punches and kicks for a round with shin pads, then took them off for a second which saw the two engage more heavily to the delight of the audience. As both fighters hands were raised, the roof came off the arena. Gono took the microphone and paid homage to his teammate and long time fellow competitor, “I wanted to say something to make him cry, but he punched me too hard in the second round and I forgot what it was.”

Once Gono finished, singer Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi – who sang the Shin Kyuokushin theme song – took the mic and the lights in the arena went black, except for two lone spotlights on himself and Kazuo. He looked at the legend as the piano started to play, then proceeded to sing his hit song “Stay Dream” directly to Kazuo. There was not a dry eye in the house. During the crescendo of the chorus, Misaki’s face revealed a world of emotion; sorrow and deep memories were etched across his brow as he fought back tears.

Kazuo composed himself as the lights came up and DEEP boss Shigeru Saeki entered the ring to present him with a bouquet. Saeki’s normally jovial and no-nonsense attitude was broken with tears. HALEO founder David Halton somberly stepped in with a second bouquet. Then Kazuo stepped to the front of the ring, looked to the far end of the arena, and bowed. A spotlight lit the entrance and suddenly a sharply suited and coiffed Yoshihiro Akiyama appeared and descended through the crowd. He entered the DEEP signature yellow ropes and presented Kazuo with a bouquet as the two exchanged words privately. Then Misaki introduced his wife and small children, who took the mic in turn with a thank you and a cute “osu”.

The final moment of the ceremony was more dramatic than any of the entire night, given its simplicity and power. Kazuo Misaki threw the mic down on the mat behind him and stepped up to the ropes, holding them with both hands in a resolute stance. He looked out to the audience and shouted a thunderous thank you. Then he bowed.

Thank you, Misaki Kazuo.

Ken:   How did you feel when you were listening Tsuyoshi Nagabuchi sing?

Misaki:   I was listing from my heart. I was listening to every beat and I felt that I can’t go back anymore.

Ken:   I understand.  You trained with Nagabuchi in the past;  did it help you?

Misaki:  Of course, yes. Our hearts are together. The strength of our hearts can’t compare with anything. That training worked so well for me.

Ken: Thank you, Misaki Kazuo.

DEEP Haleo Impact
December 22, 2012
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

Full Results:

■第5試合 MMA 5分2R フェザー級(65.8kg以下)
宮田和幸(BRAVE) Kazuyuki Miyata 12 – 9 – 0 defeated Jae Eun Kim 0 – 0 – 0 キム・ジェウン(CMA KOREA/EXTREEM COMBAT) by submission, standing guillotine, rd 1

■第4試合 MMA 5分3R バンタム級(62kg以下)肘有り特別ルール
金原正徳(パラエストラ八王子) Masanori Kanehara 20 – 10 – 5 defeated Tom McKenna 15 – 3 – 0 by TKO, rd 1

■第3試合 MMA 5分3R ミドル級(83.9kg以下)
桜井隆多(R-BLOOD) Ryuta Sakurai 22 – 17 – 6 defeated Hiromitsu Kanehara 19 – 25 – 5 金原弘光(U.K.R.金原道場) by submission, arm triangle, rd 3

■第2試合 MMA 5分2R ライトヘビー級(93kg以下)
桜木裕司(掣圏会館)Daiju Takase 10 – 13 – 2 defeated Yuji Sakuragi 14 – 19 – 2 高瀬大樹(フリー) by submission, guillotine, rd 2

■第1試合 KICK 3分3R 延長1R 70kg以下 Krush公認試合
山内佑太郎(HALEO TOP TEAM) Yutaro Yamauchi 0 – 0 – 0 versus Matsui Yu MA 松井裕馬(K&K BOXING CLUB)

■オープニングファイト第3試合 76kg以下
遠藤悟(ボデイプラント六本木) Satoru Endo 1 – 1 – 0 defeated Yoshiaki Nagai0 – 0 – 0 永井好明 by decision

■オープニングファイト第2試合 ライト級(70.3kg以下)
金子優太(BRAVE) Yuta Kaneko 3 – 0 – 0 defeated Genki Osako 5 – 4 – 2 大迫元喜(香取道場) by TKO, rd 1

■オープニングファイト第1試合 バンタム級(62kg以下)
八王子・オブ・ザ・デット(パラエストラ八王子) Kenta Nagatsuka “Hachioji of the Dead” defeated Rafael Escobar ラファエル・エスコバル(IMPACT GYM) by submission, ankle lock, rd 1

Translation and additional content by MMA-in-Asia’s Japan correspondent Ken Nakagawa