That’s the name of a new Hawaii-based reality TV show Egan Inoue, a world champ in two sports, begins this week, putting eight wannabe fighters through gruelling training before entering the cage
By Brandon Bosworth
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When Egan Inoue finds a winner on his new reality TV show, the champ will be one of the world’s best MMA fighters
Watching a mixed martial arts (MMA) bout can be a bewildering experience for the uninitiated. A couple of young guys - often with creative hair and even more creative tattoos - ruthlessly punching and kicking at one another before they both hit the ground, where the fight continues as they scramble for position like violent contortionists.
Champion fighter Egan Inoue hopes to shed a bit of light on his sport of choice with the launch of his new reality TV program, The Champion, premiering in Hawaii on Friday, April 10, at 9 p.m. on The CW93. Unlike Spike TV’s popular The Ultimate Fighter, which tends to highlight participants’prowess at drunk and disorderly conduct as much as their skill in the ring, this show will focus specifically on the training and discipline needed to make a world-class MMA practitioner.
“My show is about normal, everyday guys, ranging in age from 18 to 41,” says Inoue. “Most of the show will be about background and training. Only six minutes of each hour-long episode will be actual fighting.”
Inoue himself is quite the “normal, everyday” guy. A former pharmaceutical rep, the happily married 43-year-old father of three from Manoa is well aware of the preconceived notions many may have of him. “When people first meet me, they’re like, ‘I expected you to be all aggressive, but you’re not,’” says Inoue. “That’s the stereotype put on me ... ‘he’s aggro, he’s a fighter.’ I’m not a crazy guy like on The Ultimate Fighter ... I’m a regular person who chose fighting as a profession. I don’t fight out of anger; I fight to develop technique.”
The road to becoming a professional fighter was not a straight one, though martial arts have always been part of his life. He began training in Shotokan karate with his grandfather, Shoso Narikawa - a black belt and former martial arts instructor for the Honolulu Police Department - at the age of 3. During his youth he also played a great deal of baseball and basketball. By the time he was 16, he was already a pro athlete, though not in MMA. “I was a professional racquetball player for 12 years,” says Inoue. He excelled at the sport, becoming state champion by the time he graduated from UH Lab School in 1983. He went on to win his first world title in 1986, his second in 1990.
That phase of his professional athletic career came to an end in 1993 as a result of a knee injury.
Inoue had been training in a variety of martial arts during his time as a professional racquetball player, and after his retirement from the sport he dedicated himself fully to the grappling-intensive art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, working with members of the legendary Machado and Gracie families. He excelled at the sport and in 1996 became the first non-Brazilian to win a world championship in Rio de Janeiro.
Inoue’s introduction to the world of MMA came about by pure chance in 1997. His younger brother Enson was already a successful fighter and had a major bout lined up in Japan. One week before the fight he developed a nasty infection and was unable to compete. Enson asked his big brother to stand in for him. He did, and won the match in the first round. From there, Egan Inoue would go on to forge a successful second sports career, earning five world titles.
His mellow demeanor and solid professional background would eventually lead to Inoue’s current project.
“A bunch of different guys - producers, writers, directors - got the idea to do an MMA show based in Hawaii, since in many ways MMA originated in Hawaii,” he says. “They wanted me as host. But after three months working on the show, I started doing a little directing, a little writing. I became more deeply involved than I expected to be.”
Like many reality shows, The Champion is a competition. Eight local fighters from a variety of martial arts schools go through a rigorous training regimen under Inoue’s tutelage, then battle each other in a series of elimination bouts until the finale.
“At the end of the show there will be a championship bout,” says producer Jim Bryan. “By the time they get through this training process and the series of eliminations, whoever is left will be among the top 10 fighters in the world.”
“The fighting is broken down into three rounds,” says Inoue. “The first round is kickboxing with takedowns. The second round is pure grappling. I’ll explain what’s going on and point out the techniques being used. By the third, pure MMA round, where everything is combined, viewers will have already seen some stuff and learned some things.”
Actually trying to help viewers understand the skills used in MMA is a major part of the mission of The Champion.
“At the end of the show I’ll
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