Tachiai fan favorite Ura finds himself in the thick of a very competitive Makushita division to start 2019, and it will be his biggest challenge in more than a year. Out of all of the stories that will be woven through Hatsu 2019, Ura’s battle to return to the top division continues to attract an increasing number of followers, as the master of “What the hell was that?” Sumo continues to fight his way though the ranks.
Ura attracted a great deal of attention from the start. A youth sumo competitor, he began his professional sumo career in May of 2015, and made quick work of the lower divisions. His promotion to Makushita in November of 2015 (his 4th basho) did not seem to slow him down at all, and he dispatched nearly every opponent. His arrival in Juryo in May of 2016 came just 1 year after his Jonikuchi debut. The man is a fierce competitor, and is the bane of any rikishi who faces off against him across the shikir-sen. He gained a well deserved following for his dynamic, acrobatic and sometimes unbelievable sumo.
But a tragic injury during Aki 2017 damaged his right knee, and he assumed at the time that his sumo career had ended. He opted for reconstructive surgery, and sat out healing tournament after tournament while his rank plunged down the banzuke, falling to the bottom of Sandanme before he was strong enough to return to competition a year after his injury. Since his return, it’s clear that his months spent healing his lower body allowed him to focus on his upper body, and he returned to the dohyo with a rather impressive gain in strength. He tore through his first two tournaments, scoring only a single loss.
After taking the Sandanme yusho in November, he has been ranked Makushita 23 for the Hatsu basho. The top quartile of Makushita is some of the most brutal, tough and flat out rank in sumo. This area is populated with rikishi who have fallen from the lofty ranks of Sekitori, and up and coming youngsters who are so close to the glory, money and privileges of the top two divisions. In some way it’s more rough and tumble than any other sumo group. Ura will be in this grinder, slugging it out for rank.
Some of Ura’s fans have asked if he should score a 7-0 yusho (possible but not likely) would he would be returned to Juryo. Truth be told, the climb through the top of Makushita into Juryo is sometimes referred to as “the wall”, and we can expect even a 7-0 finish to probably not be enough to do more than move him into the top 10 of Makushita for March. In order to reach Juryo, a rikishi must have both a strong winning score at the top of the division, and a slot must open up in Juryo by make-koshi, injury or retirement.
How tough will the competition be? Let’s look at some possible opponents:
- Hoshoryu – Yes, that guy; Asashoryu’s nephew. He’s fast, strong and like Ura, has his eye set on a Sekitori rank.
- Kizakiumi – A former college rikishi, he is another tough competitor who so far has not had to deal with injuries.
- Chiyootori – Yes, the former Komusubi currently fighting it out to return to the top divisions, but mired in the Makushita mosh pit. This would be a tough, and exciting match.
It should be noted, that bout scheduling in Makushita works differently than the upper divisions. The first match will be someone close to the rikishi’s rank, then rikishi with the same score (ie, 2-0) will face each other in each successive match, with the schedule trying to keep huge rank mismatches from taking place.
Team Tachiai will be glued to our screens for each of Ura’s matches, as he has finally reached the rank where his recovery will be put to the test.
8 thoughts on “Hatsu Basho – The Next Stage of Ura’s Return”
Truth be told, when the Banzuke dropped, Ura’s rank was the one I most wanted to see.
Ura tried to make an unwise return shortly after his injury, if you recall. This ended up with internal hemorrhage, at which point he finally turned wise and had that surgery and rehabilitation.
I’m curious to see what will happen when he once again gets into situations which in the past have caused him to do acrobatics. I don’t know how much of that sumo he can still do.
It’s usually the case that rikishi are matched to the exact same rank on the first day (that is, Ms23E vs Ms23W). Barring a complementary kyujo, however, this Hatsu a Makushita rikishi will need to fill in at Juryo and the order will be somewhat disturbed. But still not enough, in my opinion, to match Hoshoryu with Ura on day 1 – which is a good thing. I really look forward to seeing them meeting, but I hope both manage to keep winning until that moment.
He should rake his time similar as Toyonoshima
Toyonoshima didn’t “take his time” deliberately. He was sure he was going to return to Makuuchi quickly. I saw some footage or pictures from two years ago where Hakuho was giving him some exercise before a basho, and he was all like “I’m coming back right now”. It… didn’t turn out that way. He had additional injuries.
Here are some projections for Ura, assuming a winning record. 7-0 Y -> Ms1-Ms2. 6-1 -> Ms7-Ms8. 5-2 -> Ms10-Ms16. 4-3 -> Ms15-Ms20. So 7 wins would place him in great position for Juryo promotion after the March tournament, 6 wins would give him a shot, 5 would need to be followed by a 7-0 record in March, and 4 almost certainly means at least two more tournaments in Makushita.
At his rank, 12 wins over two tournaments is usually enough to get to Juryo, 11 usually isn’t, though the order matters—the wins in the first basho have more oomph.
I’ve always wondered how rikishi like Ura get by financially when they lose sekitori status. Do they literally lose all their income and have to move back into the stable, or is there some form of parachute payment to soften the blow of dropping out of juryo?
No parachutes. Though a young single rikishi like Ura would probably not have moved out of the heya anyway. A case like Toyonoshima is a lot more problematic, as he is married with a daughter. He basically couldn’t support his child at all – that burden fell entirely on his wife. Technically he was not even supposed to live with his family.
Note that the heya’s support group may choose to support any rikishi with money as they please. I wouldn’t be surprised if Toyonoshima got some assistance of this sort. But I think an unattached young man like Ura would simply have to live according to his status. One thing is obvious – he didn’t go hungry during this time.