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Former professional wrestling star and mixed martial artist Katsuya Kitamura has passed away at the age of just 36.

Kitamura, a native of Japan’s Suginami City, had a long history in combat sports that ranges from a stint in amateur wrestling to a sole appearance in MMA.

Per Tokyo Sports, Kitamura called an ambulance on Tuesday after feeling unwell. The report states that the 36-year-old’s condition dramatically deteriorated soon after, leading to his death. The cause is currently unknown.

Kitamura rose to prominence as an Olympic hopeful prior to the London 2012 games. In 2006, he won the All Japan Wrestling Championship in the 120 kg category before representing the nation at the World Championships. During his time as an amateur, Kitamura won three national championships and earned the moniker “Wrestling Monster” owing to his frame.

While he was initially tipped as a possible inclusion on Japan’s wrestling team in 2012, a positive test for anabolic steroids resulted in a two-year suspension, derailing his hopes of competing in England’s capital.

In 2015, Kitamura began a short but memorable stint in professional wrestling, training at a New Japan Pro-Wrestling dojo. He later made his debut in 2017 and was widely tipped as a sure-fire future champion, especially after winning the year’s Young Lion Cup.

Unfortunately, his time in the squared circle was cut short after he suffered a concussion prior to The New Beginning in Osaka. After initial reports surrounding a possible retirement, Kitamura departed NJPW in 2019.

As well as turning to bodybuilding and a successful YouTube channel titled “Bulk Academy Katsuya Kitamura,” the Japanese star also began training in martial arts, making his MMA debut under the Rizin banner last October. At Rizin 32, he was submitted in the second round by Bobby Ologun.

Katsuya Kitamura
Image Credit: Rizin

Fans & Peers Pay Tribute To Kitamura

Following news that Kitamura had suddenly passed away, a number of fans took to social media to pay tribute. Having competed and made his presence known across multiple industries and disciplines, the Japanese star’s death was felt by many.

Having worked with Kitamura during his pro-wrestling stint, Ring of Honor athlete Cheeseburger spoke about the tragic loss on Twitter, branding his former peer an “incredibly kind soul.”

A number of fans, meanwhile, spoke about the immense potential Kitamura showed early into his wrestling career. Many suggested that the “Wrestling Monster” would’ve become a superstar under the NJPW banner had injuries not cut his career short.

One fan shared the same sentiment, but also noted that despite his short presence in the squared circle, Kitamura’s stint in the industry will be “fondly remembered.”

Others also praised NJPW wrestler Great-O-Khan for his tribute to Kitamura at a recent event.

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