The Ultimate Fighting Championship has signed featherweight standout Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto (18-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC).
MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) first reported the contract negotiations earlier this week, and UFC president Dana White recently took to Twitter to confirm the signing.
MMAjunkie.com could not immediately confirm the deal or contract details with UFC officials or the fighter's camp.
Along with recent signee Michihiro Omigawa, Yamamoto represents a key acquisition following the announcement of a WEC-UFC merger. The WEC's final show takes place next week, and as part of this past weekend's UFC event (The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale), the UFC hosted its first-ever featherweight fight.
Now, the organization looks to stock the newly adopted featherweight and bantamweight divisions, and Japan's crop of lighter-weight fighters could be prime pickings.
Yamamoto, the 2005 K-1 HERO's middleweight (155-pound) grand-prix champion, in May was set to make his U.S. debut in a fight against Federico Lopez at "Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery." But he subsequently was pulled off the card at the request of DREAM officials and instead fought Lopez at DREAM.14, where he delivered a first-round knockout. The win snapped a two-fight skid that included decision losses to Joe Warren (in the quarterfinals of the 2009 DREAM featherweight grand prix) and Masanori Kanehara (at DREAM "Dynamite!! 2009").
During a 14-fight win streak from 2002 to 2007, he defeated the likes of Jeff Curran, Caol Uno, Bibiano Fernandes and Rani Yahya.
Once the top-ranked featherweight in the world, Yamamoto considered a run for the 2008 Olympic games in freestyle wrestling but was forced to abandon that goal by a serious elbow injury.
Let's see how he does against the big boys.