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Choctaw MMA Rock Star Is Huge in Japan

Shannon Ritch, the 44-year-old mixed martial artist with Choctaw ancestry is gearing up for his next fight, scheduled Aug. 9 in Tokyo.

Shannon Ritch, the 44-year-old mixed martial artist with Choctaw ancestry is gearing up for his next fight, scheduled Aug. 9 in Tokyo. “I’m not really famous here in the United States, but in Japan, I’m really famous,” said Ritch, who lives in Glendale, Ariz. “But that’s okay, that people don’t really know me in the U.S. In the MMA world everybody knows who I am.”

Ritch, whose nickname is “The Cannon,” will fight Japan’s Hikaru Sato in a light heavyweight bout at Pancrase 269. Pancrase is a prestigious Japanese-based mixed martial arts promotions company.

Ritch said his popularity is high in the Asian country because he competed as a professional wrestler there in the early 2000s. He participated in a pair of different circuits, Battlarts and the New Japan Pro Wrestling. “People there will mob me for my autograph and to get a picture with me,” he said. “The people in Japan though are so polite. They will wait for their turn. I don’t know how they know it, but they know when my flight will come in and they will wait at the airport...they know what hotel I’m staying at and they will wait there for me.

“I’m treated like a rock star there. But I don’t mind it at all. I’ll do anything for the fans. Sometimes I have autographed cards and hats to give them.”

Ritch, who was unbeaten in nine fights in 2014, has only fought once so far this year. That’s because he tore the labrum in his shoulder in January during a fight in Phoenix.

Though Ritch said he was dominating the bout, his opponent Shonie Carter was awarded a technical knockout as his injury prevented him from continuing into the second round. Instead of surgery to repair his shoulder, Ritch had Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP), a revolutionary procedure involving the injection of his own blood. “I’m in great shape now,” said Ritch, who opened his own school, Cannon Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, in Glendale this past December. The school has about 35 members. “We’re just killing it,” he said. “We’re kicking everybody’s ass in every competition we go to.”

As for Ritch, there is some question as to how many MMA fights he has had in his pro career, which began in 1991.He said he has had 202 pro fights and has a record of 112-88-2. But Pancrase 269 officials are billing his record as 53-78-0.

Sato, who is also currently a pro wrestler, has a MMA record of 22-21-4.

Ritch has only seen tapes of some of Sato’s fights. But he knows what his game plan will be going in. “I’m going to try and keep it as a stand-up fight,” he said. “I’m also good at the wrestling parts, but I know that’s what he is really good at.”

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And though he’s approaching the quarter-century mark in his pro career, Ritch has not thought of retiring any time soon.“I’m going to be 45 in September,” he said. “But as long as my body holds up, and as long as I keep winning, I will keep at this. My desire is still there and my technique is still there. If I can get my cardio up, I feel like I can beat anybody.”