Death of ‘Combat Sports Icon’ Who ‘Basically Invented MMA With Muhammad Ali’ Saddens Fans

Published 10/01/2022, 11:21 AM EDT

Former Japanese professional wrestler and national icon Antonio Inoki recently passed away at the age of 79. Inoki’s most famous moment came after he competed with boxing legend Muhammad Ali in a mixed martial arts match in 1976. Moreover, he was one of the pioneers in Mixed Martial Arts helping the sport go mainstream.


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Inoki was also the first in his sport to venture into politics. He made more than 30 trips to North Korea during his time as a politician in hopes of forging peace and friendship. It was reported that Inoki passed away at the age of 79 after battling a rare disease called amyloidosis.


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The news was deeply saddening to fans of all combat sports as they came together to mourn the loss of a legend.

Fans mourn the death of Antonio Inoki

One fan stated that the legendary wrestling promotion New Japan Pro Wrestling wouldn’t have existed without Inoki. He also added that MMA became successful in Japan due to his involvement.

Another fan expressed his sadness, claiming that after Inoki and Ali’s death, Ric Flair is the only legend alive.

One fan even wanted a documentary made showcasing the life and career of Inoki.

Moreover, one fan recalled his iconic fight against Muhammad Ali and praised him for his accomplishments.

One fan called him a true icon in the sport.

Another fan referred to him as a ‘trailblazer’ in sports.

Lastly, one fan stated that without his fight with Ali MMA as a sport wouldn’t have existed. He also added that he was also responsible for creating the largest wrestling promotion in Japan.

Inoki was truly an icon in combat sports and will forever be remembered among the community. Without his contribution to MMA and wrestling, they would never have reached the status of popular mainstream sports.

A look into the life of Antonio Inoki

Inoki was born in 1943 in Yokohama, just outside Tokyo. He then moved to Brazil with his family at the age of 13 and worked at a coffee plantation. Inoki debuted as a professional wrestler at 17 while on a wrestling tour in Brazil, where he captured the attention of Rikidozan, known as the father of Japanese pro wrestling.


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Following this, he made his pro wrestling debut in 1960 and would go on to become the founder of New Japan Pro-wrestling. He reached global fame after facing Ali at Tokyo’s Budokan Hall.

What was your reaction to Inoki’s tragic death? Let us know in the comments.


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Sahil Sood

809 articles

Sahil Sood is a Boxing writer at EssentiallySports. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication, and holds a keen interest in the 'sweet science'. His journey towards following boxing began when he first saw the highlights of Mike Tyson as a teenager, and then closely followed the rise of Floyd Mayweather.