Yuki Nakai

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Yuki Nakai
Born (1970-08-18) August 18, 1970 (age 51)
Hamamasu Village, Hokkaidō, Japan
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Weight154 lb (70 kg; 11.0 st)
StyleShoot wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Freestyle wrestling, Catch wrestling, Judo
Fighting out ofTokyo, Japan
Teacher(s)Kanae Hirata
Satoru Sayama
RankA-Class Shootist
Black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Carlos Gracie Jr.[1]
Black belt in Judo
Years active1993–1995 (MMA)
Mixed martial arts record
By submission7
By decision1
By submission1
By decision1
Other information
Notable studentsShinya Aoki[2]
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog

Yuki Nakai (Japanese: 中井祐樹, Nakai Yūki) is a retired Japanese mixed martial artist. He currently teaches shoot wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and is the president of the Japanese Confederation of Jiu-Jitsu. He competed in Shooto, an early MMA promotion where he won the Shooto World Welterweight Championship, as well as Vale Tudo Japan 1995, where he was outweighed by every opponent in the tournament. Despite this, and despite suffering a severe eye injury in the first bout, Nakai managed to make it to the finals where he lost to Rickson Gracie. Nakai is considered a legend of Shooto by many fighters and fans.

He is the founder of the Paraestra Shooto Gym and coaches fighters such as PRIDE and DREAM stand out Shinya Aoki, who also earned his A-Class shoot wrestler's rank and his BJJ black belt from Nakai.


Nakai started training judo and amateur wrestling at Hokkaido Sapporo North high school, originally with the dream to be a professional wrestler.[1] After entering Hokkaido University, he joined the judo club and started training under renowned Kodokan master Kanae Hirata. At fourth grade, now as a black belt, Nakai competed at the Nanatei kosen judo championship, leading his university to the victory in 1992. At the same time, he joined the amateur division of mixed martial arts promotion Shooto, learning shoot wrestling under Satoru Sayama at the Super Tiger Gym. When Nakai graduated from college, he joined Shooto as a professional.[3]


Nakai made his MMA debut with a 53-second victory by keylock over Hiroki Noritsugu. He would follow with another win, submitting Masakazu Kuramochi via heel hook, but he was stopped short by Noboru Asahi in a decision loss. Still, Nakai recovered with two victories over Jun Kikuwada, both at the Seishinkaikan event representing Shooto and at a proper Shooto event, and another over Kyuhei Ueno by choke. In 1994, Nakai took part in the Vale Tudo Access series of events and fought Brazilian jiu-jitsu exponent and Rickson Gracie student Arthur Cathiard in the first of them, getting a draw after an uneventful bout spent at Yuki's guard. Nakai, however, had acquired momentum, and he defeated standout Kazuhiro Kusayanagi for the Shooto Welterweight Championship shortly after. Then, starting 1995, he was chosen again to represent Shooto in Sayama's Vale Tudo Japan event.

Vale Tudo Japan[edit]

On April 20, 1995, Nakai entered the Vale Tudo Japan tournament, figuring at 135 lbs as the lightest competitor of the night. His first opponent would be the Dutch karate expert and Ultimate Fighting Championship semifinalist Gerard Gordeau. Started the match, Nakai immediately rushed his opponent with a takedown attempt, but Gordeau used the ropes to keep himself standing and punched Nakai's head, and they remained entangled on them for the rest of the first round. At the second, the Japanese dropped down and initiated a heel hook entry, only for Gordeau to clamp himself to the ropes again and land strikes on his supine opponent, eye-gouging him illegally several times. Restarted on the center of the ring, a bloody and half-blinded Nakai was forced to lie down on the mat while he and Gordeau probed each other from their respective positions. Finally, after a third round passed on the ropes, Nakai scored a double leg takedown against the ring corner, escaped from a guillotine choke attempt by Gordeau and dropped down for another heel hook, this time managing to submit the Dutchman after half an hour of fighting.

Nakai attempting a heel hook against Gourdeau.

Despite his right eye being gravely injured and having lost half of his eyesight,[4] Nakai advanced round in the tournament and went to the ring to fight against American amateur wrestler Craig Pittman, who sported a full 100-lb weight advantage. The bigger wrestler took him down and landed heavy ground and pound near the ropes while Nakai tried repeatedly for armbars from the bottom. Pittman continued his assault on the center of the ring, but Nakai fended him off with a usage of both butterfly and spider guard. In the second round, Nakai dropped to the ground and resumed trying to submit Pittman from his guard, which he finally accomplished with an armbar at 7:32 of the round.[4]

Now with both of his eyes swollen shut from the punishment and almost totally blind, Yuki would face Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Rickson Gracie in the third and final bout of the tournament. Nakai resisted Rickson's earlier attempts of achieving dominant position, but he was too lacerated to keep up his defense and eventually Gracie took the side control. The Brazilian advanced to a cradle position and followed by taking full mount, from where he landed some punches before catching Yuki in a rear naked choke for the tap out, thus winning the tournament.[4] Due to Gordeau's illegal tactics and Nakai's own refusal to get medical attention in order to continue in the tournament, he became permanently blind in his right eye.[5] which forced him to retire from mixed martial arts competition. For years he and Sayama kept his blindness a secret to protect the reputation of the sport.


After retiring from MMA, Nakai became interested in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, not due to his own defeat to Rickson as it is popularly believed, but to Noboru Asahi's loss to Royler Gracie in 1996.[5] He learned it from Enson Inoue, and a year later he participated in his first BJJ tournament, the Gracie Honolulu Open hosted by Relson Gracie. Nakai soon won the Pan American Championship on the brown belt category, and afterwards he was granted the black belt by Carlos Gracie Jr, becoming the first person from Japan to hold a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.[1] In 1997, Nakai opened the Paraestra Shooto Gym, and over time was appointed president of the Japanese Confederation of Jiu-Jitsu.[6]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Professional record breakdown
11 matches 9 wins 2 losses
By knockout 0 0
By submission 7 1
By decision 1 1
Unknown 1 0
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 9–2–1 Rickson Gracie Submission (rear-naked choke) Vale Tudo Japan 1995 April 20, 1995 1 6:22 Tokyo, Japan
Win 9–1–1 Craig Pittman Submission (armbar) 2 7:32
Win 8–1–1 Gerard Gordeau Submission (heel hook) 4 2:41
Win 7–1–1 Hiraoki Matsutani Submission (heel hook) Shooto - Vale Tudo Access 3 January 21, 1995 1 0:20 Tokyo, Japan
Win 6–1–1 Kazuhiro Kusayanagi Decision (unanimous) Shooto - Vale Tudo Access 2 November 7, 1994 4 4:00 Tokyo, Japan Won the Shooto Welterweight Championship.
Draw 6–1–1 Arthur Cathiard Draw Shooto - Vale Tudo Access September 7, 1994 3 8:00 Tokyo, Japan
Win 5–1 Kyuhei Ueno Submission (arm-triangle choke) Shooto - Shooto May 6, 1994 5 0:52 Tokyo, Japan
Win 4–1 Jun Kikawada Submission (heel hook) Shooto - New Stage Battle of Wrestling March 11, 1994 1 0:27 Tokyo, Japan
Win 3–1 Jun Kikawada N/A Seishinkaikan February 23, 1994 N/A N/A Japan
Loss 2–1 Noboru Asahi Decision (unanimous) Shooto - Shooto November 25, 1993 5 3:00 Tokyo, Japan
Win 2–0 Masakazu Kuramochi Submission (heel hook) Shooto - Shooto June 24, 1993 2 1:36 Tokyo, Japan
Win 1–0 Hiroki Noritsugi Submission (kimura) Shooto - Shooto April 26, 1993 1 0:53 Tokyo, Japan

Submission grappling record[edit]

Result Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Notes
Loss Brazil Roberto de Souza Submission (triangle choke) Rizin 21 – Hamamatsu 2020 1 3:38
Draw Brazil Ricardo de la Riva Draw Ground Impact Revival 2013
Win Brazil Ricardo de la Riva Points Professional Jiu Ground Impact 05 2004
Loss Brazil Mario Reis Points Professional Jiu DESAFIO 02 2004
Loss Japan Mitsuyoshi Hayakawa Points Professional Jiu Ground Impact 04 2004
Win United States Albert Crane Points Professional Jiu Ground Impact 03 2004
Loss Brazil Alexandre “Soca” Freitas Points Professional Jiu Ground Impact 02 2003
Loss Brazil Leonardo Vieira Submission (rear-naked choke) Professional Jiu GI um Ground Impact 2002
Loss Brazil Vítor Ribeiro Points Vale Tudo Japan '99 1999
Win Japan Tsutomu Fujimoto Points Daido-Juku THE WARS V 1999
Win Japan Masato Fujiwara Points Daido-Juku THE WARS IV 1997
Draw Japan Kazuya Abe Draw KP X WK: Koppo vs. Keisyukai 1996
Loss Brazil Jean-Jacques Machado Submission (triangle choke) Shooto: Vale Tudo Perception 1995


Year Title Role
2003 Mutafukaz El Tigre (voice)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c BudoVideos.com (July 3, 2015). TWIBJJ The Grappling Dummy: Ep 80 with Yuki Nakai. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22 – via YouTube.
  2. ^ "Shinya Aoki — Evolve MMA Singapore". evolve-mma.com. Retrieved September 10, 2020.
  3. ^ Li, Lee (May 17, 2014). "An exclusive interview with YUKI NAKAI: his personal account of the early shaping of MMA". Archived from the original on January 16, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Murphy, Alan (August 18, 2015). "Yuki Nakai – a tribute to the legend". Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  5. ^ a b "Yuki Nakai remains committed to teaching true spirit of martial arts." Japan Today. Retrieved on April 12, 2012.
  6. ^ Scramble (February 1, 2011). The Grappling Dummy: Yuki Nakai. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22 – via YouTube.

External links[edit]