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K-1 fighter Bob Sapp hugs Jennifer Tate at Yokota Air Base, Japan, on Sunday. Tate and Sapp graduated together from Mitchell High School in Colorado Springs, Colo.
K-1 fighter Bob Sapp hugs Jennifer Tate at Yokota Air Base, Japan, on Sunday. Tate and Sapp graduated together from Mitchell High School in Colorado Springs, Colo. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Hundreds of people crowded into Yokota’s community center Sunday to meet “The Beast.”

Bob “The Beast” Sapp, 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighing more than 350 pounds, is the biggest — literally — American celebrity in Japan. The former NFL player gained popularity as a professional K-1 fighter here.

The base’s African American Heritage Committee brought Sapp here Saturday and Sunday to meet residents, pose for photographs and sign autographs.

Sapp told Stripes he enjoyed the visit, especially the “warm welcome that I received.”

“It really makes it (the visit) special,” he said as person after person posed with the star for photos.

“It’s nice to see that they follow the sports here, just like I follow them and support the troops,” he said.

Sapp even got a surprise reunion.

Organizers brought Jennifer Tate to the front of the line; she and Sapp graduated from Mitchell High School in Colorado Sprints, Colo., in 1992. The old friends hugged and spoke for a few moments.

Tate, whose husband is a Yokota-based pilot, said she saw fliers announcing Sapp’s visit and thought, “There’s no way he was the same guy. But I went online and found out it was Bob.”

She said she was good friends with Sapp in high school, but was worried he would have forgotten.

“That was 12 years ago,” she said. “But he did remember me.”

And 19-year-old Jake Ruliva, a K-1 fan, was happy to meet Sapp.

“He’s a good fighter,” Ruliva said. “It was really exciting to meet him.”

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