Nobuhiko Takada

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Nobuhiko Takada
Nobuhiko Takada.jpg
Takada dressed as "Generalissimo Takada" in HUSTLE.
Born (1962-04-12) April 12, 1962 (age 56)
Isogo-ku, Yokohama
Nationality Japanese
Height 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight 95 kg (209 lb; 14 st 13 lb)
Team Takada Dojo
Years active 1981 – 2009 (Professional wrestling)
1997 – 2002 (MMA)
Mixed martial arts record
Total 10
Wins 2
By submission 2
Losses 6
By knockout 1
By submission 4
By decision 1
Draws 2
Other information
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog

Nobuhiko Takada[1][2] (Japanese: 高田延彦, born April 12, 1962) is a Japanese former[3] mixed martial artist, retired professional wrestler, and actor. He competed in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Universal Wrestling Federation and Union of Wrestling Forces International in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming one of the highest figures of the "shoot-style" movement. He later turned to mixed martial arts where, despite his lack of competitive success and controversial match fixing ventures, he was credited with the existence and development of global MMA promotion PRIDE Fighting Championships,[4][5] in which he worked as an executive after his retirement from active competition until its closure. He also founded and starred at the sports entertainment professional wrestling promotion HUSTLE from 2004 to 2008, and currently works as an executive for Rizin Fighting Federation.

Professional wrestling career[edit]

New Japan Pro Wrestling (1981–1984)[edit]

After training in the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo under Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Takada made his professional wrestling debut in 1981 against Norio Honaga. As accustomed to puroresu neophites, Takada spent his first year as a jobber, though scoring occasional victories against other rookies. Among them, he feuded with Kazuo Yamazaki, and their matches were so well received that TV Asahi included one of them as part of the NJPW show, something unheard at the time. Takada was appointed Antonio Inoki's personal assistant.[6]

In August 1983, Takada accompanied Inoki to Canada for a special appearance in Stampede Wrestling, and he ended replacing the retiring Tiger Mask in the event, having his first worldwide match, defeating Athol Foley.[6] It granted an ascension in the rankings for Takada, and he was made part of the 1984 WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship league, facing Bret Hart, Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith, among others. His staying in NJPW lasted until April 1984, when started working in Universal Wrestling Federation by Fujiwara's invitation, and in June he was officially part of the new promotion.

Universal Wrestling Federation (1985–1986)[edit]

Takada's first matches in Universal Wrestling Federation were as a NJPW representative, but he soon joined full-time. He started with a successful singles run, defeating foreign wrestlers and having higher matches with Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Akira Maeda. On 20 January 1985 he would get an important victory over Super Tiger by referee stoppage, in which already the beginning of the shoot-style practised in the promotion. The tenure was short, however, as UWF folded shortly after, and Takada and other wrestlers returned to NJPW.

Return to NJPW (1986–1988)[edit]

Upon their return, the former UWF wrestlers formed an stable with the storyline of invading the promotion, with Takada and Maeda as the twin leaders. As a singles wrestler, Takada was involved in a heated feud with IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Shiro Koshinaka, who had been Giant Baba's assistant just like Takada had been Inoki's. Nobuhiko defeated Koshinaka in their first match, on May 19, to win the title, and he retained it in a two more matches against him, as well as challengers like Keiichi Yamada, Black Tiger and Takada's own ally Kazuo Yamazaki. Now in the peak of his popularity, Takada received the nickname of "Wagamamana Hikazoku" ("Egoist Kneecap") for his hard, stiff kicking ability.[7] He finally lost it to Koshinaka in a rubber match on February 5.

In March 1987, Nobuhiko amplied the feud to a tag team one when Maeda and him defeated Koshinaka and Keiji Mutoh to capture the vacant IWGP Tag Team Championship. They retained it for months, until they lost it to colleagues Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Kazuo Yamazaki. Takada spent the rest of the year in tag team fights, excepting a tenure in the Top Of The Super Junior I and two challenges for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title before Kuniaki Kobayashi and Hiroshi Hase. In March 1988, Takada left NJPW along with Maeda and most of the original UWF wrestlers to form the second incarnation of the Universal Wrestling Federation called Newborn UWF.

UWF Newborn (1989–1990)[edit]

Takada debuted in UWF Newborn in an exhibition match with rookie Shigeo Nakano, but he soon ascended the ranking to become the promotion's top wrestler second only to Akira Maeda, who he nonetheless defeated by TKO in their very second match. The promotion's run was highly successful, and they broke records on the professional wrestling/shootfighting event U-COSMOS, where he defeated Greco-Roman wrestling champion Duane Koslowski, twin brother of Olympic medalist Dennis Koslowski, in a worked different style fight. After the event, Takada was almost unbeaten in singles matches until the promotion's closure in December 1990.

Union of Wrestling Forces International (1991–1996)[edit]

After UWF Newborn closed doors, Takada formed the Union of Wrestling Forces International (UWFi), using former UWF wrestlers, while Maeda formed Fighting Network RINGS, and Fujiwara formed Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi. Nobuhiko opened his run as the top star of the company beating Tatsuo Nakano, Kazuo Yamazaki and American wrestler Bob Backlund, whom he fought in a pair of publicited matches. The first of them was controversial, as Takada ended the bout in just 1:15 when Backlund fell to a body kick, and it almost caused a riot in the stadium; it's believed that it was an accidental KO instead of the pre-planned match. They rematched after two months, with Takada coming over by submission after fifteen minutes.[8]

Immediately after his affair with Backlund, Takada was put in a different style fight against boxing champion Trevor Berbick, in a reminiscence of Antonio Inoki's match with Muhammad Ali in 1976. The nature of the bout as a worked match or a shoot fight is unknown, but what transpired in the bout was again not the planned course. Early in the match, after receiving some low kicks from Takada to his left leg, Berbick immediately protested, apparently believing that kicking under the waist was illegal. Though the referee seemed to clear the situation, it happened again and Berbick protested every time Takada landed a low kick; at the end, when Takada scored a head kick, the boxer abandoned the ring and walked out of the arena.[8] According to UWFi trainer Pat McCarthy, "no rules were ever changed. [Berbick] just never wanted to listen."[8] Anyway, the win increased Takada's popularity.

Takada had also feuds with Gary Albright and Super Vader. In 1992, Takada was awarded an old NWA World Heavyweight Title belt by Lou Thesz, after defeating Albright, and was proclaimed the "Pro-Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion". He defended the title until Thesz withdrew the belt in 1995, losing the Title once, to Super Vader. The high point of his reign came on December 5, 1993, when he defeated Super Vader before 46,168 fans at Tokyo's Meiji-Jingu Stadium.

Now with the title in his waist, Takada was involved in another different style fight with Koji Kitao, a karate stylist and former grand sumo champion known for his career scandals. Having defeated Yamazaki, Kitao was pitted against Takada at the October 23, 1992 UWFi event. However, discussions over the outcome of the match were difficult, leading to an agreement of a draw. During the match, however, Takada shot on Kitao, throwing a roundhouse kick which legitimately knocked him out.[8] Like the Berbick situation, it served as a boost for Takada in the eyes of the audience.

In 1995, Takada returned to NJPW as the key figure in the landmark New Japan vs UWFI program. On October 9, 1995, Takada's match against IWGP Champion, Keiji Mutoh, drew 67,000 fans to the Tokyo Dome, drawing the largest crowd and gate in Japanese Wrestling history, at the time. Three months later, Takada defeated Mutoh in a rematch, before 64,000 fans, to capture the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, becoming the only wrestler to hold all three major New Japan Titles. Takada dropped the Title to Shinya Hashimoto on April 29, 1996, drawing a crowd of 65,000 and a gate of $5.7 million. When it was all said and done, the New Japan vs UWFi was the biggest moneymaking feud in Japanese pro-wrestling history.

In December 1996, the UWFI folded after the UWFI-WAR feud. It gave birth to Kingdom Pro Wrestling, but Takada only participated in one of its events, in an exhibition against Ryushi Kimiyama. He soon left pro wrestling for mixed martial arts.

HUSTLE (2004–2009)[edit]

Generalissimo Takada along with Yinling.

In 2004, Takada was made the president of the HUSTLE promotion in Japan, created by a coproduction between Dream Stage Entertainment and Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE. He firstly appeared in a press conference previous to the first HUSTLE event along with fellow DSE directive Nobuyuki Sakakibara, who badmouthed the professional wrestling on behalf of the mixed martial arts. This caused the fury of Naoya Ogawa, who flipped the table and confronted them. To solve things, the event featured a battle between Ogawa's pro wrestling loyalists and Takada's MMA allies, who were called "Takada Monster Army". The night ended with Ogawa being pinned by Monster Army member Bill Goldberg thanks to a foreign interference, giving the first victory to Takada. The next event, Takada expanded his army and showed himself as Generalissimo Takada, a Yasunori Kato-esque character dressed in military outfit and gifted with supernatural powers. Generalissimo Takada presented himself not as Nobuhiko Takada, but an old friend of his, and proceeded to send his enforcers to beat up Naoya before his match against Matt Ghaffari. This marked the new view of HUSTLE, in which Takada and his evil forces battled Ogawa and his "HUSTLE Army" stable.

Takada returned to the ring in 2006 as The Esperanza, a supernatural wrestling cyborg created by Generalissimo Takada. The Esperanza made short work of his opponent TAJIRI and pinned him with Nobuhiko's trademark kick to the head. At HustleMania 2006, he defeated Razor Ramon HG in what was billed as (kayfabe) HG's retirement match, pinning him and giving him his own finisher, the 69 Driver, which caused "erectile dysfunction" to HG. The Esperanza was outlined as invincible until Hustlemania 2007, when he was surprisingly defeated by Wataru Sakata thanks to the magical aid of Sakata's wife Eiko Koike. The Esperanza's last match was at HUSTLE Aid 2009, when he was finally beaten by Magnum TOKYO. The same night, Generalissimo Takada shockingly announced his retirement, revealing that his true goal was leaving an eternal mark in the pro wrestling, which he had accomplished thanks to HUSTLE. He appointed the reluctant TOKYO as the new director and shook hands with the HUSTLE Army members. However, a character named King RIKI intruded and challenged him, which led to a supernatural duel in which RIKI reflected Takada's attacks and mortally wounded the Generalissimo. The dying Takada then disappeared, declaring that HUSTLE would live forever. After that, the Monster Army was disbanded.

Mixed martial arts career[edit]

Takada entered the world of mixed martial arts when he joined the recently founded KRS PRIDE, an event created to host a fight between him and Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Rickson Gracie. The bout had been highly anticiped since Gracie had defeated the UWF-i wrestler Yoji Anjo in 1994, as Takada was still expected to face Rickson in order to restore his late promotion's reputation.[9][4] However, although he had been believed to be a strong legitimate wrestler by the Japanese audiences for most of his career,[10] Takada was actually not a trained fighter.[4] He had no experience or background in combat sports of martial arts, and after a grueling 17 years professional wrestling career he was already too away from his physical prime to hone his fighting skills.[9] According to Bas Rutten, Takada had been submitted by Brazilian jiu-jitsu white belt practitioners while in a training trip to the Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu Club,[4][11] which deemed him unfit to win.[12]

Despite these considerations, Takada was able to hold a limited amount of in-ring competence late on his career. As described by Jack Slack from Fightland: "It would be easy to remember Nobuhiko Takada as some kind of bum. [...] But this might be doing a disservice to what Takada was able to accomplish in the ring despite inexperience, age and a lack of athletic prowess. For one thing, in legitimate fights Takada was able to scramble up from beneath Mark Kerr, take down Igor Vovchanchyn, and indeed take the latter's notoriously powerful punches."[5] He is acknowledged to have faced several of the greatest fighters of his generation, adding Royce Gracie and Marko Filipović to the aforementioned, and is also credited with the existence of PRIDE Fighting Championships by having lent his own popularity to carry the first events of the promotion until it had established its place.[5][9][13] In his book The MMA Encyclopedia, Jonathan Snowden wrote: "Pride was built to showcase Takada."[9]

PRIDE (1997–2007)[edit]

Matches against Gracie[edit]

Takada's debut against Gracie happened as stipulated on October 11, 1997 at PRIDE 1. After circling around Gracie for some time, a wary Takada was able to stop the first takedown attempt by grabbing the ring ropes, but after the restart, Rickson scored a double leg takedown and moved to mount position over him.[5] Although the Japanese tried to hold him down from the bottom, Gracie eventually captured his arm and executed an armbar for the win at the 2:32 mark.[5] While the matchup was an huge economic success, which ensured new PRIDE events in the future, Takada's remarkedly poor performance resulted in a comparable disappointment for Japanese audiences, drawing very negative comments and marking the beginning of the end of Takada as a main eventer.[9][10] He was likened to a war criminal to Japan by specialized press.[6]

Nobuhiko would go on to face kickboxer Kyle Sturgeon at PRIDE 3, a match that was acknowledged as a fight fixed in order to attempt to rebuild Takada's status for a rematch.[5][4] As planned, Takada submitted Sturgeon by heel hook and requested another fight against Rickson Gracie. The latter agreed, claiming "I feel Takada is a warrior and deserves the chance to try and redeem himself" in a subsequent interview.[14] Thus, the rematch was held at PRIDE 4.

Rickson opened the fight shooting for a takedown, but a substantially improved Takada blocked it and held Gracie away from the ground, the Brazilian's field of expertise, by way of a tight clinch.[5] After exchanging short knees and stomps with Gracie for some minutes, Takada landed a hard knee strike to the midsection and blocked a guard pulling attempt by Gracie.[5] Some more minutes into the round, Rickson eventually managed to pull Takada down, where the bout looked to slow down, but the Japanese wrestler stood up in order to initiate a leglock. Capitalizing on the instance, Gracie executed a sweep and got on top of Takada in mount position.[5] Takada worked from the bottom, dismounting Gracie several times and even transitioning into a heel hook attempt at one point, but the jiu-jitsu specialist avoided it and applied an armbar for the win.[5] Although the fight didn't restore Takada's reputation, it was unanimously considered a much better performance, with some calling it Takada's best showing.[5]

Main competition[edit]

Takada fought his next match at Pride 5, against Mark Coleman. Though thought to be the much better fighter, Coleman was caught by a heel hook from Takada and submitted. This fight is frequently accused of being fixed by MMA analysts.[15] Regarding his performance against Takada, Coleman said in an interview, "It was what it was. I needed to support my family. They guaranteed me another fight after that and I needed that security. It was what it was. I'm going to leave it at that."[16]

Takada was then pitted against Mark Kerr, another freestyle wrestler and Mark Coleman's teammate, at Pride 6. Unlike the previous, this match is generally acknowledged as a non-fixed fight, although it was reported Kerr was offered a bonus payment in exchange for fighting a technical bout instead of using ground and pound.[17] As such, Kerr went to claim he would defeat Takada by a submission move in less time than Rickson Gracie had done in Takada's debut.[18] The fight was also promoted as Kerr taking revenge for Coleman.[19]

Started the match, Takada came out with punches, driving Kerr to clinch.[18] The American executed a single leg takedown, but Takada escaped and returned to standing, where he started scoring quick low kicks. Kerr took him down again, though, and achieved side control. From there, he locked an americana, forcing Takada to tap out. The fight ended at 3:05, two minutes less than the first fight between Takada and Gracie, as Kerr had meant.[18]

At PRIDE 7, Takada beat Alexander Otsuka by a TKO when he put him in a rear naked choke and the referee stopped the fight. This match is widely believed to have been a professional wrestling bout, and is not included in Takada's fight record on the Sherdog mixed martial arts website,[20] though it is in his PRIDE official record.[21]

Takada competed in the PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round. He was pitted against Royce Gracie, and the match went the distance and to a decision. The Brazilian master could neither control nor submit Takada in the assigned 15-minute time limit, but Nobuhiko's lack of offensive made the judges rule in favor of Gracie and he advanced to the next round. It was revealed that the Japanese had fought the match with a heel injury. Takada's next MMA event participation was in PRIDE 11, where he faced feared striker Igor Vovchanchyn. Nobuhiko showed great improvement, surviving to Igor's punch flurries and actually taking him down, and later throwing effective leg kicks and holding on the kickboxer's attempts to utilize ground and pound. However, at the second round Vovchancyn overpowered him and made him tap out to more strikes on the ground.

At PRIDE 17, Takada faced another master kickboxer in the form of Mirko Cro Cop. He avoided Mirko's striking by using superior footwork and tried single and double leg takedowns, only for Cro Cop to successfully sprawl them. Takada then went to suffer a fractured foot and stayed in the mat for the rest of the fight in an attempt to lure Mirko to the ground, but the striker did not compromised and the bout went to a draw. His next fight was again a draw against a kickboxer, this time Mike Bernardo, as part of Antonio Inoki's team in the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye event. The fight saw virtually no offensive as each of the fighters acted with excessive caution to the other's skills.


Takada's final match was against former student, Kiyoshi Tamura, which Tamura won by a KO. After his MMA career, Takada ran his mixed martial arts training facility, Takada Dojo, where he has helped train such fighters as Kazushi Sakuraba. He also stayed on in a management role at PRIDE and its parents company Dream Stage Entertainment until PRIDE's purchase by Zuffa in 2007.

Rizin Fighting Federation (2015–present)[edit]

In 2015, Takada returned to mainstream MMA when he signed on as a spokesperson and matchmaker for the Rizin Fighting Federation, Takada works alongside with Nobuyuki Sakakibara and other former Pride employees.

In wrestling[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 2–6–2 Kiyoshi Tamura KO (punch) PRIDE 23 November 24, 2002 2 1:00 Tokyo, Japan
Draw 2–5–2 Mike Bernardo Draw Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2001 December 31, 2001 3 3:00 Saitama, Japan
Draw 2–5–1 Mirko Cro Cop Draw PRIDE 17 November 3, 2001 4 5:00 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 2–5 Igor Vovchanchyn Submission (punches) PRIDE 11 October 31, 2000 2 3:17 Osaka, Japan
Loss 2–4 Royce Gracie Decision (unanimous) PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round January 30, 2000 1 15:00 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 2–3 Mark Kerr Submission (kimura) PRIDE 6 July 4, 1999 1 3:04 Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Win 2–2 Mark Coleman Submission (heel hook) PRIDE 5 April 29, 1999 2 1:44 Nagoya, Japan
Loss 1–2 Rickson Gracie Submission (armbar) PRIDE 4 October 11, 1998 1 9:30 Tokyo, Japan
Win 1–1 Kyle Sturgeon Submission (heel hook) PRIDE 3 June 24, 1998 1 2:18 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 0–1 Rickson Gracie Submission (armbar) PRIDE 1 October 11, 1997 1 4:47 Tokyo, Japan


Year Title Role Notes
1989 Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl! Himself Cameo
2006 Simsons Noriyuki Motoyima
2007 Calling You Mr. Yamaguchi
2010 Watashi no Yasashiku nai Senpai Makoto Iriomote
2010 Bokutachi no Play Ball Himself
2014 The Great Shu Ra Ra Boom Nami Natsume
2015 Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3 General Black
2015 Mr. Maxman Ryo Jindaiji
Year Title Role Notes
2006 Kōmyō ga Tsuji Honda Tadakatsu Taiga drama
2007 Fūrin Kazan Kojima Gorozaemon Taiga drama
2007 Hitomi Masaru Morimoto
2009 Otomen Ryo's father
2012 Mou Yuukai Nante Shinai Quick service delivery man

Video games[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Nobuhiko Takada profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2012-11-06. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Profile at Puroresu Central". Puroresu Central. Retrieved 2012-05-11. 
  3. ^ "高田道場オフィシャルサイト - 高田延彦/NOBUHIKO TAKADA - プロフィール". Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  4. ^ a b c d e David Bixenspan (October 13, 2017). "The World's Greatest Fighter Was A Pro Wrestler Who Couldn't Fight". Deadspin. Retrieved April 4, 2018. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Jack Slack (July 3, 2017). "Nobuhiko Takada: MMA's Most Important Bad Fighter". Fightland. Retrieved April 4, 2018. 
  6. ^ a b c Tatsuhito Kaneko, Nakimushi, Gentosha 2002
  7. ^ a b c Nobuhiko Takada, Nobuhiko Takada no Katachi, Toho 2002
  8. ^ a b c d "UWF-I Roster at Puroresu Central". Puroresu Central. Retrieved 2016-04-28. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Jonathan Snowden, Kendall Shields, Peter Lockley (November 1, 2010). The MMA Encyclopedia. ECW Press. ISBN 978-15-502292-3-3. 
  10. ^ a b Keith Vargo, Way of the Warrior: Takada's Last Dance, Black Belt magazine, April 2003
  11. ^ Jonathan Snowden (Jun 29, 2011). "52 Things I Love About MMA: Kazushi Sakuraba And Royce Gracie Make History". SB Nation. Retrieved April 4, 2018. 
  12. ^ Ben Fowlkes (October 11, 2017). "Today in MMA History: The birth of PRIDE FC". MMA Junkie. Retrieved April 4, 2018. 
  13. ^ Keith Vargo, Kazushi Sakuraba and the Takada Dojo, Black Belt magazine, June 2001
  14. ^ Rickson Gracie interview 2,
  15. ^ "Not For the Ages: Mark Coleman vs. Nobuhiko Takada and a brief history of fight fixing". 2013-07-12. Retrieved 2014-07-30. 
  16. ^ Jonathan Snowden. "Mark Coleman discusses his UFC 109 fight with Randy Couture -". 
  17. ^ Jonathan Snowden, Shooters: The Toughest Men in Professional Wrestling
  18. ^ a b c Stephen Quadros, Kerr, Takada compete at PRIDE 6, Black Belt magazine
  19. ^ Scott Newman (2014-01-24). "MMA Review: #432: PRIDE 6". The Oratory. Retrieved 2018-04-16. 
  20. ^ "Nobuhiko Takada MMA Stats, Pictures, News, Videos, Biography". 1962-04-12. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  21. ^ "PRIDEFC Official Website". Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  22. ^ a b c "UWF-I Commercial Tape on 10/23/92". Puroresu Central. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  23. ^ a b c d e "UWF "With '90 1st" on 1/16/90". Puroresu Central. Retrieved 2016-02-08. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f g "UWF Midsummer Creation on 8/13/89". Puroresu Central. Retrieved 2016-02-08. 
  25. ^ "Nobuhiko Takada « Wrestlers Database « CAGEMATCH - The Internet Wrestling Database". 2009-07-26. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  26. ^ [1] Archived May 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ [2] Archived January 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  28. ^ a b c d [3] Archived July 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ "Saikyou: Takada Nobuhiko Release Information for Super Nintendo". GameFAQs. 1995-12-27. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 

External links[edit]