Emanuel "Manny" Yarbrough (September 5, 1964 – December 21, 2015) was an American amateur sumo wrestler and mixed martial arts (MMA) competitor, also having competed in judo, wrestling and American football.
Emanuel was coached in judo by Yoshisada Yonezuka. He was recruited for wrestling and football at Morgan State University and achieved All American status in the Heavyweight class in 1983 Division II and 1986 Division I.
He was 6 ft 8 in (2.03 meters) tall and has weighed up to 882 lb (400 kg), holding the Guinness World Record for the heaviest living athlete. He was the 1995 World Amateur Sumo Champion and is considered to be one of the most famous sumo wrestlers outside Japan.
From 1996 to 1997, Yarbrough competed in professional wrestling for Catch Wrestling Association in Germany, where he had gimmick matches based around his sumo career. He took part in a sumo tournament against the entire staff of the promotion, being declared winner after beating everybody except August Smisl and Terminator Mastino. He later won another tournament, beating the likes of Osamu Nishimura and Jason Neidhart, Jim Neidhart's cousin.
In 1994, Yarbrough applied to mixed martial arts promotion Ultimate Fighting Championship, taking part in the event UFC 3 representing sumo. He was pitted against the much smaller Keith Hackney, a kempo representative, who opened the match by immediately knocking Yarborough down with a palm strike. Emanuel recovered, pulled Hackney towards his chest and unloaded strikes over his neck, and then literally pushed him out the cage through the door. However, when the match was restarted, Hackney knocked Yarbrough again and followed with hand strikes for the TKO. Keith since took the nickname "The Giant Killer" for his victory.
Emanuel's second MMA fight would be in Japan for the promotion Shooto. He faced Tatsuo Nakano, a former shoot-style pro wrestler who Yarbrough outsized greatly. This time, the sumo got advantage of fighting in a ring and cornered Nakano against a turnbuckle, taking dominant position over him. When the contendants were relocated on the center of the ring, Yarbrough shifted his abdomen over Nakano's head. Unable to get out from under his opponent and being smothered by the weight, Tatsuo tapped out, giving Yarbrough his first and only victory. His third and last match was for the Japanese promotion Pride Fighting Championships against his smallest opponent to date, Daiju Takase. Takase avoided engaging Yarbrough and earned a yellow card for inactivity, but a failed takedown got him positioned over Emanuel on the ground, which allowed him to hit the sumo until the tap out.
He appeared in a 1997 Bollywood film Mr. and Mrs. Khiladi which features Bollywood action hero Akshay Kumar and has appeared on several talk shows, as well as in a commercial for Motorola. He has also appeared on the HBO drama Oz as an inmate named Clarence Seroy. In 2000, he played himself in the German wrestling film Sumo Bruno.
On December 21, 2015, Yarbrough died of a heart attack at the age of 51. His manager said that he had battled all his life with food addiction and "he always said, 'I am a prisoner in my own body.'" By the age of 14 he already weighed 320 pounds, which he attributed to a poor diet of fried foods. In 2007, he was hospitalized for a week due to heart failure, and after seeing an obesity specialist and changing his diet he reduced his weight from over 800 to around 670 pounds.
Mixed martial arts record
|Professional record breakdown|
|3 matches||1 win||2 losses|
|Loss||1–2||Daiju Takase||Submission (punches)||Pride 3||June 24, 1998||2||3:22||Tokyo, Japan|
|Win||1–1||Tatsuo Nakano||Submission (smother)||Shooto - Shoot the Shooto XX||April 26, 1998||1||1:17||Yokohama, Japan|
|Loss||0–1||Keith Hackney||TKO (punches)||UFC 3||September 9, 1994||1||1:59||Charlotte, North Carolina, United States|
Championships and accomplishments
- 1995 World Amateur Sumo Champion
- 1992 1st Sumo World Championships Open Division 2nd Place
- 1993 2nd Sumo World Championships Open Division 3rd Place
- 1994 3rd Sumo World Championships Open Division 2nd Place
- 1996 5th Sumo World Championships Open Division 2nd Place
- NCAA All American, 1983, 1985 and 1986, Morgan State University
- Second place, U.S. Nationals 1989
- NCAA Division I-AA All-American offensive tackle, Morgan State University, 1982, 1983