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Yuki Nakai is a legendary martial arts fighter and Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt, who became well known by mixed martial arts (MMA) fans after his famous contest against Gerard Gordeau in 1995, where he was illegally eye-gouged and partially lost his eyesight, winning the fight highly debilitated and reaching the final against Rickson Gracie. Nakai has also been one of the main figures in the development of the Brazilian style of Jiu Jitsu to Japan, for which he was a tremendous ambassador. From his own gym, Paraestra, Yuki Nakai developed some of the most technical grapplers in “The Land of the Rising Sun” and the in world with the likes of MMA fighter Shinya Aoki and World Jiu Jitsu Champion Yukinori Sasa.

Yuki Nakai Jiu Jitsu

Full Name: Yuki Nakai

Nickname: N/A

Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie Sr. > Carlos Gracie Junior > Yuki Nakai

Main Achievements (BJJ):

  • Pan American Champion (1997 purple, 1998 brown)
  • Brazilian Nationals Bronze Medallist (1999 black)

Weight Division: Peso Pena (70kg-154lbs)

Favourite Position/Technique: Guard

Team/Association: Paraestra

Yuki Nakai Biography

Yuki Nakai was born on the 18th of August, 1970 on the Hamamasu village in Hokkaido – Japan. He began his martial arts training by attending the Judo classes at his University (Hokkaido University) – a sport he holds the rank of black belt. In 1992 Nakai moved to Yokohama and started competing in Shooto, training under Master Satoru Sayama.

In 1995 he was invited to fight at the “Vale-Tudo Japan” event, a competition that would change his life forever. Though Yuki Nakai was by far the smallest competitor on the event, he was sure that his skills were superior to those of the westerners and that his weight would not be an issue. His first fight was against the infamous Gerard Gordeau, a dutch competitor who had the reputation of being a dirty fighter, having bitten the ear of Royce Gracie in UFC 1 (1993). The Dutchman stayed true to his reputation and when he saw himself in danger as Yuki Nakai held on to one of his legs attempting a footlock, Gerard repeatedly poked Nakai in the eye, blinding him there and then. Nakai showed his warrior spirit and did not give up ending getting that submission he was looking for and winning the fight. Nakai went on to fight Craig Pittman (a 250lbs American fighter), and though disfigured he beat the odds again winning another submission (armbar). The final of the tournament was fought against Rickson Gracie who dominated completely and beat Nakai by Mata Leao (RNC).

As explained to Metropolis Magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp) a few years ago, Nakai chose not to disclose that he was partially blinded because of fear that MMA would be seen as a brutal activity and stop the growth of the sport in Japan, he confessed to it years later.

Though Yuki Nakai was beat by Rickson Gracie in 1995, it wasn’t until he watched Rickson’s brother Royler Gracie fight that he really believed he needed to bring Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to Japan. He trained under several coaches and found Jiu Jitsu came natural to him, much due to his Judo background. Nakai was awarded his black belt in BJJ by Carlos Gracie Junior (according to the BJJ Tree website – www.bjjtree.com) becoming the first Japanese BJJ black belt in history.

Yuki Nakai went on to create his own BJJ gym. There he has brought to light some of the best Japanese born BJJ fighters the world has seen. His much coveted techniques have been out on display in some of the world’s best competitions, with fighters like Yukinori Sasa, Kazuya Satoh, Yusuke Honma, Yoshihiko Matsumoto, Arabe Kenji amongst many others and including MMA superstar Shinya Aoki. Aoki was at one point one of the main figures of the gym and one of it’s assistant instructors. Unfortunately his “bad boy” antics on the ring, namely his less then amicable attitude towards a fellow competitor (Mizuto Hirota) “flipping him off” after breaking his arm on a match, took Yuki Nakai to publicly apologise and take Aoki off the assistant instructor roster.

Yuki Nakai vs Rickson Gracie

Yuki Nakai vs MMA fighter Yoshitomi Mishima

High Percentage Chokes  Instructional by Lachlan Giles

4 Comments

  • Goku-Son says:

    Can not believe no one has comment here!!! I for one can say that Yuki Nakai is one of the most underrated Legends within both MMA and BJJ. Even though he was not a BJJ fighter yet his fights in Vale Tudo Japan 95 were nothing short less of Epic. Beating two opponents twice his size with his eye gouged and blind is what I like to call true Samurai on his behalf. Then after seeing how powerful and technical BJJ really his, To strap on a new white belt and learn the art is just plain awesome. Then he becomes the first Japanese to get a black belt in BJJ and makes the BJJ Federation in Japan along with still staying true to his Shooto Roots. If I ever got to go out to Japan It would be a Honor to train under Yuki Nakai!!!!

  • Norbs says:

    Wow… He didn't even mention he was partially blind until years later because he was afraid MMA might get a bad rep. Much respect! A true legend.

  • Patrick Amos says:

    I had the very good fortune of training with Yuki at Hokkudai Judo bu in Sapporo. I arrived in 1991, a tall Canadian with wrestling and karate background. Yuki was the first to befriend me and begin showing me the Kosen Judo techniques. Although i outweighed him by 15kg, he handled me easily. We both loved early 70s Rolling Stones. I remember asking if he had heard of Rickson Gracie – but he hadn’t (yet…). What i remember most is how Yuki prepared for the 1991 Nana DaiGakko (7 university – Kosen Judo) national championships. This was a tournament where each team selected its best 15 judoka in predetermined order. We would fight one on one, but if you lost, the next guy on your team came up to face the guy who beat you. The team with fighers remaining won the match. Kosen rules were much like BJJ. You could win with an ippon throw or two wazaris, but once on the ground it stayed there unless one fighter broke free. There were a lot of draws.
    These were always open weight class matches, so being big was an advantage. Yuki was our assistant captain and one the smallest guys there. One week before the 91 nationals we were all training hard. But at this time he began fasting. His health turned to shit as his energy became depleted. I remember asking him why we was doing such a crazy thing on the eve of the big competition. His response was ‘seishin’ (spirit). He was going all out to cleanse himself of fear. Hokkudai went on to win that year, with Yuki leading the way.
    I don’t know if i can do it justice, but Yuki Nakai is one of the kindest and coolest people I have ever met. He had a profound effect on my life., for which i am ever-grateful.

  • Roy Martin says:

    What a f—g scumbag Gerard Gordeau!!!

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