Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto passes away from cancer at 41

News broke late Monday night that former K-1 Hero's, Shooto and UFC fighter Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto has passed away at the age of 41 after his battle with cancer.

News broke late Monday night that Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto has died at the age of 41 following a battle with cancer.

It was announced by the Krazy Bee Gym in Japan that the fighter had passed away on Monday.

Yamamoto was the son of Japanese Olympic wrestler Ikuei Yamamoto with his sisters winning world championships as freestyle wrestlers.

He wrestled throughout High School and then turned to mixed martial arts, debuting just before his 24th birthday in March 2001 with Shooto. He was active throughout his first year of professional MMA, even fighting future Strikeforce champion Josh “The Punk” Thomson in his fourth pro fight later that year.

Yamamoto would fight at featherweight and later move to lightweight, although he was best served to fight at bantamweight, which he did later in his career.

When K-1 launched K-1 Hero’s, Yamamoto became a huge star for the MMA outfit and one of the faces of the promotion.

In MMA, he went undefeated for over five years from 2002-2007 and ventured into kickboxing for K-1. His first kickboxing fight was a TKO victory over former pro wrestler Takehiro Murahama. His most famous fight came against Masato on New Year’s Eve 2004 where he was giving up a significant size advantage in the fight. Their celebrity led to millions watching the fight, which Masato won by decision, but was knocked down by the smaller Yamamoto.

After a failed bid to represent Japan in the 2008 Summer Olympics where he suffered a terrible elbow injury, he returned to MMA in 2009 and fought for the DREAM promotion. Yamamoto suffered a split decision loss to Joe Warren in his return fight and began a slide in his career and was unable to rebound.

For years, people had talked about Yamamoto coming to the WEC and fighting Urijah Faber, who was the top featherweight at the time, but it never materialized. In 2011, Yamamoto finally came to the UFC and entered their bantamweight division. He dropped decisions to Demetrious Johnson and Darren Uyenoyama and was submitted by Vaughan Lee. After three years off, he was given another fight by the UFC and fought Roman Salazar, but the fight ended in a no contest due to an eye poke by Yamamoto.

For nostalgia purposes, Yamamoto had an exhibition kickboxing bout with Masato on New Year’s Eve in 2015 and was Yamamoto’s last contest of note.

It was revealed last month through Yamamoto’s Instagram post that he was battling cancer.

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Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.