Antonio Inoki, the first Japanese person to be inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment’s Hall of Fame, announced that he has changed his name to Muhammad Hussain Inoki, in honor of his conversion to Islam in the 1990s. He is also taking on a new career championing world peace through sports and investing in the youth.
Inoki is probably best known for his legendary fight against boxing hero Muhammad Ali in 1976 in what was called a “prototype mixed martial arts fight”. The fight for the “toughest man on the planet” ended in a draw. He was also the special envoy of Japan to Iraq in 1990 to negotiate the release of Japanese hostages with then president Saddam Hussein.
But now, he is relishing his role as a “peace ambassador”. Last December, Inoki visited Pakistan to take part in an international peace wrestling competition and also to celebrate 60 years of sporting relations between Japan and the South Asian nation. He is famous in the country for beating and dislocating the arm of Pakistani wrestling legend Akram Pahalwan in front of 50,00 spectators in 1976. He paid tribute to Pahalwan by visiting his grave. He hopes to further solidify diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Inoki practices both Buddhism and Islam and has become a symbol of religious tolerance around the world.