Sean Strickland Sparring Former K-1 Kickboxing Champion Rukiya Anpo


  • Footage has emerged of Sean Strickland sparring with kickboxing champ Rukiya Anpo, with both landing significant shots without headgear.
  • Afterward, Strickland praised Anpo’s toughness, taking to Instagram to share a photo of the two of them after the sparring match.
  • Strickland is currently campaigning for a rematch after his recent title loss, but a potential title eliminator vs Robert Whittaker could be next for him.

Footage has emerged of former UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland sparring with former K-1 kickboxing champion Rukiya Anpo, in Japan. The two-minute clip shows the two engaging in a heavy sparring session, trading significant punches with one another. The pair also appear to be in good spirits with one another, both before and after the spar.

Not wearing any headgear, Strickland showed no hesitancy in attempting to land major blows on the kickboxer, with Anpo landing some big shots of his own throughout the clip. The UFC fighter also shared a photo of the two on his Instagram with the caption reading: “Bro, I’m on vacation why you trying to knock me out?! @anporukiya great rounds.”

Who is Rukiya Anpo

Anpo was who Sean Strickland was sparring with in the footage

Rukiya Anpo is a 20-6-1 professional kickboxer and former K-1 champion, who last had a professional bout in the sport in 2023. The last time he competed in combat sports, however, was actually in a lightweight MMA bout at RIZIN 45. This was the Japanese fighter’s first professional MMA bout, and he lost the fight via first-round submission.

Sean also gave props to Anpo on his ‘X’ account following the spar, posting: “Fun times in Japan. This guy came to fight and was tough as nails.”

Sean Strickland and Kickboxing champion

What’s Next for Sean Strickland

The American is 4-1 in his last five bouts

Sean Strickland is coming off of a recent win versus fellow middleweight Paulo Costa. In a five-round main event at UFC 302, Strickland was the winner via split-decision, bouncing back from losing his 185lb title. In his post-fight interview, Strickland stated: “I wanna fight for the belt… give me that title shot.”


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Strickland lost his title in January 2024, in a split-decision loss to Dricus du Plessis. However, he has said that he feels as if the judges were wrong that night. Since then, he has been campaigning for a rematch against the South African. However, it was recently announced that Du Plessis will fight Israel Adesanya for the middleweight strap in August in Perth, Australia. This means that Strickland will have to wait a significant amount of time to fight for the title. However, when asked about the strap at the UFC 302 post-fight press conference, Strickland responded:

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“I’m gonna wait [for the title]. I paid my dues. I got robbed in dirty f****** Canada… we all know I got robbed… I’m gonna f****** wait until they say – Sean, go beat this man.”

However, Strickland is not the only high-ranking middleweight coming off of a win. On Saturday night, at UFC Saudi Arabia, Robert Whittaker also bounced back from a loss to Du Plessis. His first-round knockout over Ikram Aliskerov in the main event was the first finish victory of his professional career since 2017. As Strickland and Whittaker are currently ranked number 1 and 3 respectively in the middleweight division, a title eliminator bout between the two could now make sense.

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