Tanigawa announced Wednesday plans for Rickson Gracie’s return to MMA next spring. The FEG president said he hoped to have Gracie fight the winner of the New Year’s Eve match between Sakuraba and Funaki. “I want to have Rickson fight as soon as possible next year,” he said. “Even if it is not in our ring, even [if it is] in another organization, I would send these champions to fight.” While FEG had been building toward a Gracie-Sakuraba match for its New Year’s Eve show, it appears Funaki requested a big-name Japanese fighter for his return to MMA. “I’ve already lost once to Rickson, so Sakuraba is the better choice,” Funaki said. FEG went along with his request and decided Gracie would instead face the winner of the Funaki-Sakuraba match in the spring of 2008. Funaki retired after a win over Tony Petarra in 1999, then returned to battle Gracie a year later; he was left unconscious by a rear-naked choke, as Gracie improved to 11-0. Neither man has fought since. If Funaki is able to conquer the skillful but aging Sakuraba, a rematch with the 47-year-old Gracie could be next. If Sakuraba, nicknamed “The Gracie Hunter,” emerges victorious, he will have a chance to take his fifth victory over a Gracie in a match many believe is well overdue. yay...?