RIZIN FF: JEROME LEBANNER RETURNS TO MMA, WILL FACE FORMER SUMO STAR KAIDO HOOVELSON AT NEW YEAR’S KICK-OFF EXTRAVAGANZA IN TOKYO
TOKYO – December 14, 2015 – RIZIN FF, the all-new fight promotion led by former PRIDE FC head Nobuyuki Sakakibara, announced today the return of all-time kickboxing great Jerome LeBanner, to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) rules competition, in a super heavyweight matchup with former sumo wrestling star Kaido “Baruto Kaido” Hoovelson, on Thursday, Dec. 31.
LeBanner (3-2 MMA; 81-22-2, 1 NC (65 KO’s) kickboxing) of Etretat, Seine-Maritime, France will make his first appearance under MMA rules since 2010 when he lost a unanimous decision to Judo medalist Satoshi Ishii. Prior to the defeat, LeBanner had scored three consecutive knockouts in MMA rules bouts, all under the promotion of K-1.
The 42-year-old LeBanner, who has faced and defeated every major rival of his generation in the kickboxing ring over the course of his 20-plus year professional career, was victorious in both of his starts this year, scoring a second round (:52) KO on Claudiu Istrate with a knee strike to the body to retain his I.S.K.A. world super heavyweight K-1 rules title on April 25, and earning a unanimous decision over Karl Roberson on August 4.
At 6-foot-6, 425 pounds, the 31-year-old Hoovelson (0-0 MMA, 431-213-102 sumo) of Estonia is a monstrous specimen who competed as a professional sumo in Japan between 2004 and 2013. The bout with LeBanner marks Hoovelson’s MMA rules debut.
Just two years into his career, Hoovelson reached the top division in the sport, eventually winning a championship in 2012 and earning five awards for fighting spirit.