Legendary Sumo champion and the first non-Japanese to become a Yokozuna (Sumo Grand Champion). Akebono gives a full education on the history, culture and sport of Sumo. He also discusses his MMA debut against Royce Gracie and highlights from his long career. Click “Read More” for show notes! 


  • Growing up in Hawaii
  • How youth athletics lead him to a healthy and successful life
  • Being recruited into Sumo out of high school
  • Moving to Japan / Culture shock
  • Tips for visiting Japan
  • Sumo in modern times
  • Japans meritocracy based culture
  • Adapting to the Sumo and Japanese culture as a foreigner
  • The rules of Sumo explained
  • Princes of Sumo
  • Sumo’s ranking system / How to progress in rank
  • Becoming part of a stable (Sumo team)
  • The culture within a stable
  • “Senpai” – A stable’s enforcement and hierarchy system
  • The challenge of not speaking Japanese while training
  • Ryan gets his first lesson in “Pigeon English”, Hawaii’s native slang language
  • The daily regimen of a Sumo wrestler
  • In-ring rituals
  • The younger Japanese generation’s outlook on Sumo traditions
  • The strict rules of the Sumo Association
  • The celebrity and respect Sumo wrestlers receive from the general public in Japan
  • Sumo retirement ceremonies
  • A technical breakdown of the fundamental techniques of Sumo
  • Techniques and concepts that advanced Sumo wrestlers develop over time
  • His match against Mainoumi in 1991 and why it made him re-think his entire Sumo game
  • Link to that match HERE – (Akebono in black)
  • Becoming the first non-Japanese Yokozuna in 1993
  • His retirement
  • Injuries from his career
  • Post-Sumo athletic career / K-1 , MMA and Pro Wrestling
  • His debut MMA fight against Royce Gracie