Today, Poriz counts sumo champions like Konishiki among his friends. He's traveled to Japan over 30 times, and is so well-liked the Japanese have given him a sumo fighting name: ShiroiKuma, aka "White Bear." One of his biggest achievements was beating Manny Yarbrough, the former world champion from New Jersey.

A regular guest on American late-night talk shows, Yarbrough owns the distinction of heaviest sumo wrestler in history. His weight drifts from 800 to 900 pounds, and at his peak in the late '90s he was unbelievably strong and agile, routinely beating the Japanese at their own sport. Poriz had the dumb luck of drawing Yarbrough's name at almost every world championship, and losing to him. But he learned something profound about sumo from the experience.

"I realized that sumo is like life," he says. "If you should be a warrior, the winning is understood. Many times you fix yourself on the object of winning, but you forget that what matters is the path that you take there. The practice, the many times you've been hurt. You have to overcome those little difficulties, not the big ones. And that makes you something better."

Sumo appears different to the Western world, he says, because sports are valued on winning, rather than the process. Sumo has changed his perspective on every­thing: life, work, career advancement. "Most people toil all day, stress about their boss. That's where sumo comes in. If you do something, try to do it as good as you can. If you're fixated on someone's approval, you'll grow into what you do. If you overcome yourself every day, you'll become the man everyone's afraid to face."