The Mixed Martial Arts world lost one of its gems two months back when Japanese MMA legend Kid Yamamoto tragically passed away at the age of 41 after battling cancer.
He competed in the Bantamweight division of the UFC. He quickly gained popularity in the Shooto organization due to his aggressive, well-rounded style and controversial persona. He moved on to K-1 HERO’S, where he became the K-1 HERO’s 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament Champion in December 2005.
Prior to him battling cancer, he asked BJ Penn if he could come back to Hawaii.
“Yes, I knew for a while that he was battling the disease. Kid Yamamoto texted me and said ‘BJ I want to come back to Hawaii.’ I said of course, no problem come. He said he wanted to come for a few months, so I said for sure let’s do this. But then he never got back to me. Then one of the boys from Guam let me know that (Kid) was not doing to well, so then I just jumped on a plane to Guam the next day. I think he really wanted to come to be in Hawaii, but it just proved to be too difficult. So he ended up going to Guam, which is like the Hawaii of that side of the world.”
BJ Penn continued:
BJ Penn believes Kid Yamamoto should be remembered not only for his accomplishments but also for being a true ambassador of the sport of mixed martial arts.
“Chris, remember when he fought (Kazuyuki) Miyata and (Genki) Sudo? That’s who Kid Yamamoto was a man. That is how he should be remembered. No fear. If Demetrious Johnson had gone up and fought T.J. Dillashaw and Max Holloway, then he would have been as great as Kid Yamamoto was in his prime. He was a true ambassador of the sport, we were lucky to have him.”
“When I was a champion over in North America and he (Yamamoto) was a champion in Japan, he was still always the nicest guy to me. He never wanted to compete against me… He just wanted to be my friend.” said an emotional BJ Penn. “I love Kid Yamamoto and his legend will live on forever.”
BJ Penn will compete against Ryan Hall at UFC 232 in Las Vegas.