UFC

Kawajiri coming to the UFC

(L-R) Tatsuya Kawajiri kicks Gilbert Melendez during the lightweight championship bout at the Strikeforce event
Kawajiri faced Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce lightweight championship in 2011.
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Damon Martin

Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2004. His work has been published in CNN, Bleacher Report, MMAWeekly.com, Yahoo! Sports, UFC.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He also co-hosts The Great Debate Radio MMA podcast, and has appeared on ESPN Radio and SportsNet Radio. Follow him on Twitter.

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One of the biggest stars in Japanese MMA history is coming to the UFC as featherweight Tatsuya Kawajiri has signed a contract with the promotion where he will compete for the first time during his 13 plus year career.

Sources close to Kawajiri confirmed to FOX Sports on Tuesday that the former PRIDE, DREAM and Strikeforce veteran has signed a multi-fight contract with the promotion.

For several years, Kawajiri was a mainstay of the lightweight top ten when he was competing in Pride Fighting Championships where he put on some of the most memorable fights in the history of the organization.

Nicknamed 'The Crusher', Kawajiri faced a veritable who's who list of fighters including names like Gilbert Melendez, Josh Thomson, Yves Edwards, Joachim Hansen and Takanori Gomi.

While he spent the biggest part of his career fighting in the lightweight division, Kawajiri decided in 2011 to make the move down to featherweight and he's found nothing but success in that time.

He's picked up four wins in a row at 145 pounds including three by submission. His most recent victory came over UFC veteran Michihiro Omigawa by unanimous decision at DREAM 18 in 2012.

Now for the first time in his storied career, Kawajiri will move to the UFC where he will test himself against the best of the best in the featherweight division.

There has been no date or opponent given for Kawajiri's debut, but he's expected to hit the Octagon in the coming months as the UFC continues to expand further and further into Asia as 2014 begins.

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