The Japan Sumo Association unanimously decided Wednesday to promote Kiribayama to the sport's second-highest rank of ozeki, following his recent run of strong results.
Upon his promotion, the 27-year-old from Mongolia, whose real name is Byambachuluun Lkhagvasuren, changed his ring name to Kirishima, formerly used by his stablemaster Michinoku when he was an active wrestler.
"I'll train harder than ever to live up to the rank of ozeki," Kirishima said during his promotion ceremony at the Michinoku stable in Tokyo. "I just have to devote myself to going for one rank above this."
The sixth Mongolian-born ozeki had an 11-4 win-loss record at the recently concluded Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, won by yokozuna Terunofuji.
Kiribayama captured his first career top-division championship in March and has 34 wins over his past three tourneys as either a komusubi or sekiwake, with the standard promotion benchmark being 33.
Michinoku revealed that on the second-to-last day of the Summer meet, with promotion all but locked up, he asked his protege to adopt his former ring name.
"I hope he will climb higher with the new name," Michinoku, who rose as high as ozeki during his fighting career, said. "I want him to surpass me (and reach yokozuna)."
It was the first sekiwake-to-ozeki promotion since Mitakeumi moved up after the 2022 New Year Grand Sumo Tournament. Unable to keep the ozeki rank, Mitakeumi has since fallen into the maegashira ranks.
Asked to comment on his promotion to ozeki eight years after joining the stable, Kirishima said, "I thought about quitting sumo and going back (to Mongolia) many times. Now I'm glad I got through those tough times."