Today we’re exploring Japan’s DEEP organization headquartered in Nagoya, Japan. The promotion was originally called DEEP 2001 and as you may suspect, they began holding events in 2001. The name was officially changed to DEEP in 2003. The organization has promoted 265 events in their 15 years of existence, all in which were held in Japan. DEEP has also taken the ZST, Jewels and Smash MMA Japanese events under their wing and often co-promote with these organizations. Their next event, DEEP 75 Impact, will take place on February 27, 2016.

To my knowledge you cannot view live DEEP events outside of Japan. However several events are available on DVD or for view over the internet.

This section includes athletes that have competed in the promotion at least twice and are not current title holders. Additional noteworthy fighting experience has also been provided.

Ryo Chonan: 22-13 overall, (16-2 DEEP, former Middleweight Champion & Welterweight Champion), (4-4 PRIDE FC), (1-3 UFC), (1-0 DREAM), (0-1 Pancrase), (0-1 Sengoku)
Wins over Hayato Sakurai (TKO), Carlos Newton (dec), Anderson Silva (flying scissor heel hook), Roan Carneiro (twice – TKO/dec), Antonio Schembri (dec), Ryuta Sakurai (twice – TKO/dec), Joey Villasenor (dec), Jutaro Nakao (dec), Andrews Nakahara (dec), Seichi Ikemoto (dec) and Dan Hornbuckle (dec)

Losses to Masanori Suda (dec), Ricardo Almeida (dec), Phil Baroni (KO), Dan Henderson (KO), Paulo Filjho (armbar), Karo Parisyan (dec), Brad Blackburn (dec), TJ Grant (dec) and Hayato Sakurai (dec)

Riki Fukuda: 23-7-1 overall, (8-1 DEEP, former Middleweight Champion), (2-3 UFC), (1-0 DREAM), (3-1 Pancrase), (1-0 SHOOTO), (3-0-1 ROAD FC)
Wins over Ryuta Sakurai (3 times – dec/TKO-punches/TKO-knees), Yuya Shirai (dec), Murilo Rua (dec), Hiromitsu Kanehara (dec), Steve Cantwell (dec), Tom DeBlass (dec),

Losses to Joe Doerksen (dec), Joey Villasenor (dec), Nick Ring (dec), Costas Philippou (dec) and Brad Tavares (dec)

Masakazu Imanari: 32-14-2 overall, (19-7-1 DEEP, former Featherweight Champion and Bantamweight Champion), (0-2 PRIDE FC), (4-2 DREAM), (1-0 Pancrase), (3-1 ZST), (1-1 ONE FC)

Wins over Jorge Gurgel (heel hook), Mike Brown (rolling kneebar), Yoshiro Maeda (toe hold), Jean Silva (heel hook), Daiki Hata (dec) and Abel Cullum (armbar)

Losses to Dokonjonsuke Mishima (twice – TKO-punches/dec), Marcus Aurelio (dec), Luiz Firmino (dec), Joachim Hansen (KO/knee), Fredson Melo (dec), Bibiano Fernandes (dec), Hiroshi Nakamura (dec), Hideo Tokoro (dec), Leandro Issa (dec) and Mizuto Hirota (TKO-punches)

Dokonjonsuke Mishima: 27-7-2 in MMA overall, (8-1 DEEP, former Featherweight Champion and Bantamweight Champion), (2-2 PRIDE FC), (0-2 UFC), (8-2-2 SHOOTO), (1-0 Pancrase)

Wins over Ryan Bow (dec), Fabio Mello (dec), Masakazu Imanari (Twice – TKO-punches/dec), Tetsuji Kato (dec), Marcus Aurelio (dec) and Charles Bennett (ankle lock)

Losses to Din Thomas (TKO-cut), Takanori Gomi (TKO-punches), Ralph Gracie (dec), Yves Edwards (armbar), Joe Stevenson (guillotine choke) and Kenny Florian (rear naked choke)

Ryuta Sakurai: 24-19-6 overall, (16-9-1 DEEP, former Middleweight Champion), (0-3 PRIDE FC), (0-2 UFC), (7-3-4 SHOOTO), (1-0 Pancrase), (0-1-1 KSW)

Wins over Katsuhisa Fuji (dec), David Bielkheden (dec), Ryuki Ueyama (TKO-punches), Yasuhito Namekawa (armbar), Xavier Foupa-Pokam (armbar) and Hiromitsu Kanehara (triangle choke)

Losses to Masanori Suda (armbar), Cyrille Diabate (TKO), Yuki Sasaki (heel hook), Shiko Yamamshita (dec), Yushin Okami (dec), Murilo Bustamante (twice – dec/KO-punch), Paulo Filho (armbar), Ryo Chonan (twice – TKO-cut/dec), Riki Fukuda (3 times – dec/TKO-punches/TKO-knees) and Mamed Khalidov (triangle choke)

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Talk about a tough decision. When a promotion has held over 250 events, it’s likely there have been numerous workhorses along the way. DEEP is no exception. Any of the fighters below could’ve easily made the list.

Daiki Hata: 17-10-7 overall and 8-2-4 in DEEP. Hata won the DEEP Bantamweight Championship in 2013 and vacated the title.

Choi Doo Ho: 13-1 overall and 6-0 in DEEP. “The Korean Superboy” is a UFC featherweight

Dong Hyun Kim: 21-3-1-1 overall and 7-0-1 in DEEP. “Stun Gun” or “Maemi” as he’s known in Asia (means “Cicada”) is a UFC welterweight.

Yoshiro Maeda: 35-15-5 overall and 8-4-2 in DEEP. Maeda not only a former DEEP Bantamweight Champion but a veteran of PRIDE Bushido, Pancrase, Vale Tudo Japan, DREAM, Sengoku and WEC

NOTE: Plenty of other high profile fighters competed under the DEEP banner at one time or another including Royler Gracie, Rogerio Nogueria, Ricardo Liborio, Jorge Patino, Roan Carneiro, Gegard Mousasi, Joao Roque, Gustavo Machado, Milton Vieira, Marcelo Tigre, Yasuhito Namekawa, Shinya Aoki, Hisae Watanabe, Yuki Kondo, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Akihiro Gono, Yuki Sasaki, Masanori Suda, Hayato Sakurai, Sanae Kikuta, Kiyoshi Tamura, Daijiro Matsui, Michihiro Omigawa, Seichi Ikemoto, Kosei Kubota, Chan Sung Jung, Don Frye, Dave Menne, Dan Hornbuckle and Christian M’Pumbu

DEEP CHAMPIONS

All of the current divisional champions are listed. Some may be headed to a promotion near you in the future.

Megatonweight champion:
Jaideep “Heart” Singh: 2-1 overall, (1-0 DEEP), (0-1 RIZIN FF)
Won the title by beating Carlos Toyota by TKO (corner stoppage) after the 2nd Rd at DEEP 73. Not only was it just his third MMA fight, but Toyota was on a 3-fight KO/TKO win streak.
Won and defended the J-Network Heavyweight Kickboxing Championship in 2008.
Won and defended the K-1 Grand Prix Kickboxing Championship in Seoul in 2009.
Won the RISE Heavyweight Kickboxing Championship in 2011.
Singh lost his most recent bout to Fedor Emelianenko by TKO in the 1st Rd at RIZIN FF 2

Heavyweight champion:
The promotion does not have a heavyweight champion. For some bizarre reason, the title for this organization has become a joke (literally). Years ago comedian Hidetada Irie and kickboxer Yuji Sakuragi had been running “skits” to “compete” for an “unofficial” title. This is a first. I can’t explain it. Let’s move on.

Light Heavyweight champion:
Yoshiyuki Nakanishi: 16-4 overall, (14-2 DEEP)Won the title by defeating both former Bellator MMA Light Heavyweight Champion Christian M’Pumbu and ROAD FC veteran Ryuta Noji in the DEEP 47 four-man tournament.A true homegrown talent, Nakanishi made his pro MMA debut in DEEP and is a 9 year veteran of the promotion

Middleweight champion:
Young “Ryo” Choi: 20-10-3 overall, (11-5-2 DEEP)
Won the title by defeating current DEEP Light Heavyweight Champion Yoshiyuki Nakanishi.
Another long-time veteran of the promotion, Choi first fought for the organization in 2003 at DEEP 11. He returned in 2008 and only fought outside the organization once – in their brother promotion ZST – over the last 8 years. He holds a victory over Dong Hyun Kim in amateur competition.

Welterweight champion:
Keita Nakamura: 31-6-2-1  overall, (4-0-0-1 DEEP), (1-3 UFC), (1-0 DREAM), (8-1 SHOOTO), (3-0 WVR: Sengoku)
Won the title by submitting Yuta Watanabe via rear naked choke in the 1st Rd at DEEP: Cage Impact 2015.
Won SHOOTO Pacific Rim Middleweight Championship in 2006 by submitting Ronald “Machine Gun” Jhun.
Won World Victory Road: Sengoku Raiden Championships Welterweight Grand Prix in 2010 by submitting former M-1 Global Welterweight Champion Yasubey Enomoto.
Won the Performance of the Night award at UFC Fight Night 75 in reward for his victory over former Legend FC Welterweight Champion Li Jingliang.
Nakamura is one of the most talented athletes fighting out of Japan and just 31 years old. Look for this Wajitsu Keishukai fighter to even bigger things in the future.

Lightweight champion:
Satoru Kitaoka: 37-14-9 overall, (7-0 DEEP), (24-9-8 Pancrase), (1-1 DREAM), (5-2 WVR: Sengoku)
Won the title by defeating reigning champion Daisuke Nakamura at DEEP 62 by decision. Kitaoka has defended the title 3 times in the last two years.
He won the Sengoku Lightweight Grand Prix in 2008 defeating the former DEEP featherweight and lightweight champion Kazunori Yokota by decision.
He won the Sengoku Lightweight Championship in 2009 by defeating former PRIDE FC Lightweight Champion, PRIDE FC Lightweight Grand Prix winner and SHOOTO Lightweight Champion, Takanori Gomi by decision.
Over the course of his 16-year MMA career, Kitaoka has faced some of the top names in the sport. His record includes wins over Carlos Condit (heel hook), Paul Daley (guillotine choke) and Takanori Gomi (Achilles lock). He also carries losses to some of the best including Jorge Masvidal (KO/punch), Shinya Aoki (dec) and Will Brooks (TKO/punch.)

Featherweight champion:
Kazunori Yokota: 24-5-3 overall, (17-1-2 DEEP), (1-0 Pancrase), (5-3 WVR: Sengoku)
He has the most successful organizational win/loss record of all DEEP champions (17-1-2).
Yokota first won the title defeating Nobuhiro Obiya by decision at DEEP 28 in 2007. He would lose the title the following year and regain it in 2012 defeating Hideki Kadowaki by decision.
Yokota best competition includes wins over Michihiro Omigawa (dec), Ryan Schultz (KO/punch) and Eiji Mitsuoka (dec) as well as losses to Tae Hyun Bang (KO/punches), Satoru Kitaoka (dec) and Tatsuya Kawajiri (dec).

Bantamweight champion:
Takafumi Otsuka: 19-13-1 overall, (15-6-1 DEEP), (0-4 DREAM), (0-1 ROAD FC)
Otsuka won the title defeating Kenji Osawa by decision at DEEP 66 in 2014. This was especially satisfying due to the fact he lost to Osawa by decision 3 years earlier.
His 10-year MMA career includes wins over Masonori Kanehara (dec) and Dokonjonsuke Mishima (dec) and losses to Rafael dos Anjos (dec), Bibiano Fernandes (twice – dec/rear naked choke), Kazuyuki Miyata (dec) and Yoshiro Maeda (twice – dec/rear naked choke).

Flyweight champion:
Yuki Montoya: 15-4-1 overall, (15-3 DEEP), (0-0-0-1 RIZIN FF)
Montoya became DEEP’s youngest champion when he defeated Akira Kibe by head kick KO in 2012 at DEEP Nagoya Impact. He won the title again in 2014 by winning a unanimous decision over Sota Kojima at DEEP 73.
His 6-year MMA fight resume includes victories over Yuya Shibata (dec), Mazukazu Imanari (dec) and Yoshiro Maeda (armbar) and a loss to Takeshi Kasugai (armbar).
Montoya took part in the RIZIN FF fight card on 12/29 where he battled Felipe Efrain. The DEEP Champion controlled his opponent on the mat and from Efrain’s back. However with just over 4 minutes left Efrain landed a left straight that dropped Montoya to the mat where he was finished. The bout was later ruled a No Contest due to the fact Efrain missed weight.

DEEP Jewels Women’s CHAMPIONS

Bantamweight champion:
Ji Yeon Kim 4-0-2 overall, (1-0-1 DEEP Jewels), (2-0-1 ROAD FC)
Kim won the title last August at DEEP Jewels 9 via a decision over then DEEP Jewels Middleweight Champion Takayo Hashi.
She trains on Team MOB out of the Mind Over Body Training Center in Seoul, South Korea.

Strawweight champion:
Mizuki Inoue: 9-4 overall, (8-2 DEEP Jewels), (1-2 Invicta FC)
Won Jewels Rough Stone Grand Prix 56kg Tournament in 2010.
Won the Shoot Boxing Girls S-Cup 53.5kg Tournament in 2012 and 2013.
Inoue defeated WSOF veteran Emi Fujino by decision to win the DEEP Jewels Lightweight Grand Prix. She would submit Emi “The Kamikaze Angel” Tomimatsu by armbar in her next match but the outcome was overturned as Inoue missed weight. They would meet again 6 months later and Inoue would capture the DEEP Jewels Lightweight Championship defeating Tomimatsu again by armbar. Her first title defense – now called the DEEP Jewels Strawweight Championship – was against Fujino again. The bout went the distance but 21-year-old Hakushinkai Karate fighter would retain her title. Inoue will compete at Invicta FC 15 in less than 2 weeks on January 16th.

Atomweight champion:
Mei Yamaguchi: 15-8-1 overall, (4-1 DEEP Jewels), (3-1 Jewels) (2-0 Pancrase)Won The Next Cinderella Lightweight Tournament Championship in 2007.Won the Valkyrie Women’s Featherweight Tournament and Valkyrie Women’s Featherweight Championship in 2010.Yamaguchi began her road to winning the DEEP Jewels Featherweight GP title – now called the Atomweight Championship – by defeating Jewels veteran Miyoko Kusaka by KO/knees in February. She went on to win the title by beating Mina Kurobe (dec) and Satomi Takano (TKO/punches) in the same night last May.

5 DEEP FIGHTS YOU SHOULD SEE

DEEP 2: Rogerio Nogueira vs. Katsuhisa Fuji
This was Lil’ Nog’s first fight but you’d never know it from the way he carried himself. Fuji, on the other hand, had 9 fights under his belt including a UFC 4-man tournament. “Shamoji” kept Nogueira honest early and stuffed a few takedowns but we all know where this was going to wind up. Once on the mat, Nogueira showed good position but no power in his strikes (again, first fight). Pure arm-strength punches simply bounced off Fuji’s head as he squirmed his way outside the ropes. A restart from center signaled the inevitable. Nogueira worked from side control to a North/South position that had Fuji’s head locked between the Brazilian’s legs. At that point it was only a matter of snatching the limb while falling back to the mat and extending the arm for the win.

DEEP 16: Jutaro Nakao vs. Shinya Aoki
This was just Aoki’s 4th fight but it was Nakao’s 27th and he’d already been in the UFC twice. Nakao was a new addition to the DEEP roster coming over from SHOOTO. He would capture the DEEP Welterweight Championship and win the 4-man tournament that same night. Despite looking like a human stick across from the well-muscled Nakao, Aoki gave him a fight. Even back then Aoki showed great ability to control his opponents on the mat. Rather than put himself in danger Nakao would use his superior strength to smother Aoki and just wait for the ref to stand them up. Aoki’s striking was clearly his weakness. He clipped Nakao coming in and got excited, signaling the beginning of the end. Nakao met him head on, delivering a left straight that sent him crumbling to the mat. Thankfully the ref stepped in before Nakao could really go to work.

DEEP 22: Mike Brown vs. Masakazu Imanari
If you’ve never had the pleasure of watching Imanari I would suggest you seek out this one. In 2005 it wasn’t always as easy to get footage of your opponent like it is now. I’m not saying Brown wasn’t prepared. It’s just how do you prepare for the Tasmanian Devil of MMA? Brown looked good early as he didn’t play Imanari’s game of “I’ll do something crazy and you come take me down, ok?” When they hit the mat, Brown established good position and pursued submissions. The trick is that what looks like a bad position to most people is exactly where Imanari wants to be. The submission in round 2 truly has to be seen to be believed. I’ll do my best to describe it. Imanari throws a jumping roundhouse kick that glances off Brown’s arm but Imanari’s body lands at Brown’s feet. In one masterful sequence Imanari drops his shoulder to the mat and spins under Brown, snatching the left leg and trapping Brown’s left ankle between his legs. Brown cries out in pain as Imanari continues to apply pressure to the twisted limb and he’s forced to tap. I probably rolled the video back 10 times just to get the description right.

DEEP 24: Joey Villasenor vs. Yuya Shirai
Villasenor stepped in the ring as the reigning King of the Cage Middleweight Champion. He had defended that title 6 times and sported a 20-3 record so he had a lot to lose. Shirai was no noob; he had a respectable 7-3-1 record. However all of his competition had taken place in Japan against Japanese opponents so this was a big step up for him. Moments into the first round it was clear to everyone in attendance – including Villasenor – that Shirai was ready. “Smokin” Joe did what he was supposed to do. He got the takedown, established position, and even blasted Shirai with shoulder strikes to the face…with both shoulders! That was cool. It also woke up our boy Shirai. From that point on every striking exchange, every clinch, every takedown attempt was contested. Villasenor dominated but he knew he was in a fight. In fact late in the fight we see a sense of urgency in Villasenor’s striking. Assuming Shirai didn’t know English (I don’t know that for a fact), he motions to Villasenor in the way any fighter understands another fighter and communicates “bring it on!” It went the distance with Villasenor taking a unanimous decision. I have to say I was a little surprised Shirai’s performance wasn’t able to sway at least one judge in his home country.

DEEP 25: Xavier Foupa-Pokam vs. Ryuta Sakurai
Some of you may remember “Professor X” from his 2-fight stint in the UFC. Or some may have seen him in Cage Rage before that (I did). Wherever you saw him, chances are you didn’t forget him. He has the unique quality that makes him entertaining in and out of the cage or ring. This was his 16th fight and he’d already faced Paul Daley. Sakurai was basically a .500 fighter his entire career but he was a scrapper and was in most every fight. This one got ugly and fast. Foupa-Pokam controlled the range and the striking with his significant height and reach advantage. But every once in a while he’d get caught and Sakurai would come in to pounce. An exchange in the opening round lead to “Professor X” staggering to the ropes and winding up on the mat in an ankle lock. Lucky for him Sakurai overcompensated on his roll and Foupa-Pokam landed in a seated position. He made Sakurai pay with vicious heel kicks to the head that opened significant cuts on his face. Sakurai never let go of the leg but Foupa-Pokam was able to shift his weight and drop bombs until the ref decided to check the cut. They continued a similar pattern into the 2nd round but this time when Sakurai snatched the leg, he was physically spent. Foupa-Pokam lands back fists, head stomps and even a few soccer kicks before the ref decided he’d seen enough.

NOTE: these are just 5 fights I would recommend viewing. Admittedly this list of bouts are all from the early days of the promotion but those are the events I enjoy most. A hardcore fan of the promotion may have a totally different list. Do you have a DEEP fight you think everyone should see? Let me know at jhirthmma@yahoo.com and I’ll put together another Top 5 DEEP Fights voted on by the readers.

NEXT UP: Brazil’s Jungle Fight promotion

About The Author

James Hirth
Staff Writer

James Hirth has been covering combat sports in a variety of media formats (magazine, internet and radio) since the late 1990’s. He was first exposed to Mixed Martial Arts (then called No Holds Barred) when a training partner brought in a grainy VHS tape of an event called the Japan Open Vale Tudo ’94. James recalls “I’m the first person I‘m aware of who was familiar with Rickson Gracie’s fights before Royce. I saw a tape of UFC 1 a few weeks later and I was hooked”. Having done everything from in-house play-by-play and judging at live fights, ringside camera work and even cornering a fighter - in addition to previews and interviews - James has witnessed the growth of the sport. James has studied a variety of martial arts for more than 30 years. Growing up in Chicago and the youngest of 8 children, James’ oldest brother would take him Downtown to the theaters of The Loop on Saturday mornings in the late 1970’s to see martial arts films. Like many youth of that day, seeing Bruce Lee on the big screen changed his life. His brother would also introduce him to the arts of Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido where he spent 10 years training and teaching at the same academy. After receiving his Bachelors of Science in Business Operations he spent 5 years in the field of Marketing Research in The Loop. The 9-11 tragedy resulted in significant layoffs in the industry and he would return to teaching martial arts, this time for a non-for-profit organization. He spent more than a decade teaching and developing a variety of martial arts programming in multiple branches of the organization. He not only taught all ages and in more than a dozen Chicago Public Schools, but had the opportunity to train Cook County Juvenile Probation Officers and the children of local FBI agents. Now James is thrilled to bring his years of experience to The MMA Corner and Press Box Insider.