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UFC one step closer to Japanese event with new distribution deal

The future of Mixed Martial Arts in Japan has been a hot topic as of late due to financial woes and underwhelming fan support for DREAM, a company many felt act as successor to the historic, now defunct PRIDE organization. However, while the outlook remains bleak for home-based promotions, a ray of hope regarding the Japanese audience being provided high-level MMA recently increased in scope and intensity with the UFC’s announcement of a deal with local distributors to offer increased content through cell phones, video options, and On Demand services.

“Today is a very important step in both expanding the number of Japanese fighters in the UFC as well as expanding our media platforms to bring the UFC to more fans than ever before. We want to make sure that any fan who wants to watch the UFC has the best access they can and, at the same time, reach new fans,” explained Mark Fischer, Zuffa’s Executive VP and Managing Director in Asia, in a statement to media.

Also discussed during the proceedings were the possibility of promoting a live event in Japan and how the newly formed relationship might assist in facilitating it.

“We definitely want to hold a major event in Japan as soon as possible,” said Fischer. “I would say that we’re not ready to announce anything yet but that we’re hoping to have an event later this year or early next year in Japan.”

“It’s a step-by-step process,” he continued on the subject. “It doesn’t happen overnight. We want to build up a good fan base, grow our media exposure, and we want fighters from different nationalities in the UFC before marketing to that nation and bringing in the big event. That big event will be more successful then, and I think that’s what we’re doing here in Japan.”

The UFC has not held an event in Japan since Zuffa purchased the organization a decade ago. The card, UFC 29, featured a number of interesting moments in retrospect including Chuck Liddell fighting Jeff Monson, one of Matt Hughes’ losses to Dennis Hallman, and appearances by Matt Lindland, Pat Miletich, Evan Tanner, and Tito Ortiz.

  • Rece Rock says:

    With FEG pretty much conceding they are on there last leg and fighter after fighter getting screwed out of pay it wont be too hard for Zuffa to make a move… question is did the Dream promotion leave a bad taste for MMA in the fans mouths over in japan?? Another question is- are japanese fans ready for non freak show, non- k-1 rules, non- special rules, non- super hulk cards???
    The japanese love the freaky cards and Zuffa is quite the opposite. When was the last time we saw a card with nothing but MMA match ups?? When was the last time there was a cage over there Dream 12???

  • Rece Rock says:

    I have a feeling this will be later rather than sooner… I hope UFC/Zuffa don’t sink to much into this venture it could prove to be a ill advised move at the current moment.

  • MCM says:

    Good point about the cage Rece, I never even thought of that. Is the Octagon even legal in Japan? What about the other countries the UFC is trying to get into? Will there be some overseas cards that will have to be fought in the ring? And why couldn’t the UFC do freakshow cards? It’s not like the sanctioning bodies over there have an issue with them. Now you got my damn mind spinning.

  • hindsightufuk says:

    freakshows like a former champion fighting a boxer? or a street fighter vs an mma pro? or 2 former football stars fighting each other?
    naaaah, ufc would never do that

  • hindsightufuk says:

    if they do a show in japan, maybe they could get some japanese marketing guys to do the posters, cos boy do the usual ufc guys have nooooooooo imagination

  • bigbadjohn says:

    I just can’t seem to realize why Japan wouldn’t bite. You’d think names like Rampage, Shogun, Wanderlei from the Pride days and even Lesnar, GSP and Machida (asian heritage) would still resonate quite well over-seas. So is it just a matter of proper marketing? If so, not a problem, the UFC are pretty, pretty, prettttty good at that.

  • MickeyC says:

    the UFC will do well n Japan. I’m sure there is a fan base there now & more avalability will only increase the numbers. Adding the lower weight classes will help. And I would not be surprised if a japanesse version of TUF, may not be on the menu.

  • LiverPunch says:

    I hope they use Pride and Dream rules with elbows.
    I have been watching some old pride videos recently and although there was a lot of crap mixed in , the good fights in Pride were just better. Little Nog vs Shogun and Rampage vs Wanderlei 2 spring to mind even fights like Santiago vs Misaki and Santiago vs Khalidov 2 were far superior spectacles than some of the control heavy match ups and points fighting we get in the US. Knees and no stalling on the ground are great too.
    For those not familiar with Pride or the Japanese rules or fighting , check out these fights:
    Rampage vs Wanderlei 1+2 (Pride)
    Santiago vs Misaki 2 (WVR)
    Santiago vs Khalidov 2 (WVR)
    Little Nog vs Shogun (Pride)
    Nog vs Fedor 1+2 (Pride)
    Nog vs Barnett 1 (Pride)
    Aleksander vs Kharitonov (Pride) *
    Hansen vs Alvarez (DREAM)
    Kamajiri vs Alvarez (DREAM)
    Fedor vs Crocop (Pride)
    Obiya vs Viera (Deep) **
    Fedor vs Randleman (Pride) *
    Arona vs Rampage (Pride) *
    Sapp vs Nog (Pride/K1)

    *This isn’t an epic fight but it is worth watching.
    ** No big names but an amazing fight.

  • LiverPunch says:

    Should read Fedor vs nog 1+3. 2 was a no contest due to an accidental head clash.

  • Rece Rock says:

    I’m talking freakshow like a cartoon character vs a fighter…. A pro wrestler and a fighter doing a worked match… Lopsided match ups like a super hulk vs a welterweight… Mixed fight rules for a match. Cmon UFC’s product may not provide the spectacle that there fans come to see.
    Act like japan doesn’t like shit like this mixed in with there more traditional mma matches.

  • LiverPunch says:

    Opps kaWajiri not kaMajiri vs Alvarez.
    Yes Japanese MMA has had it’s fair share of freak shows but I guess what ufuk was trying to say was that the UFC does have a few “freak shows” of its’ own.
    Some of Takadas’ fights in Pride were disgraceful though. I could count half a dozen fights in Pride that I am nearly 100% certain were fixed. One thing I will say though is some of those “freak shows” provided good fights like the Sapp vs Nog fight and others like the Fedor vs Hong Man Choi fight were no worse than Couture vs Toney actually they were probably better in hindsight because Hong Man Choi had fought and won in MMA previously and outweighed Fedor by 100 pounds.
    I like Mayhem and love the way he fights but I hate his entrances in Dream. Half way through his little dance and sing along I’m hoping that the Diaz bros are going to ambush him from somewhere and beat the shit out of him. I have to leave the room until the fight begins but the Japanese fans love it.

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    About time.
    The biggest mistake in MMA history was closing Pride for good. They could have had Fedor, Aoki, Alvarez, Hansen, JZ, Mousasi, Lawler, Overeem, Kharitonov, Jacare, Mayhem, Kawajiri and others all under the ZUFFA banner. It would have been very difficult for DREAM, SF, Affliction, WVR, DEEP, Bellator, EliteXC and others to succeed and a few of them would never of even started. I don’t know exactly why they closed it but if they had of made the effort to keep it going, if only for 4-6 shows per year at first, the idea of having 99% of the worlds best under the 1 banner would have been more than just a distant UNOBTAINABLE dream. The UFC blew it big time. I seriously think that decision was the difference between a mostly united MMA world and mess we have today. I think the UFC got greedy and thought that it wasn’t worth the hassle and all of the worlds best would have to go to ZUFFA anyway. I don’t know how true it is but I heard that they didn’t realize contracts such as Fedors’ were not transferable. I hope they sacked the lawyers that didn’t notice that one.
    I’m glad to see Japan and Brazil are on the horizon for the UFC. I would like them to go to Holland, China, Thailand, India and Korea too. Just imagine the talent that would come from Thailand if MMA really took off. India and China are massive markets too and MMA owes both of them a dept for the martial arts contribution.

  • Rece Rock says:

    It has been said that part of the problem why Zuffa couldn’t continue on with PRIDE was due to the fact that many of the business relationships Dream Stage Entertainment the owners of PRIDE had went south when the sale of PRIDE was complete…Zuffa could not secure a TV Deal and many venues were being difficult in securing a spot for an event. Vital staff were either laid off or quit and helped form DREAM ( which in most cases of a business merger or sale the owners can not compete with the new owners in business or like businesses for a set period of time, but that obviously wasn’t the case in Japan). The Japanese wanted PRIDE not the Zuffa Reboot of PRIDE.

    Let’s see what happens but I think it will take a while before they perfect the formula to put on a PROFITABLE show in Japan.

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    All of which you have described is not the full truth Rece.

    “Sports Navigator (Yahoo Japan) is reporting tonight (Thursday night Japanese time) that Jamie Pollack, the Zuffa-appointed legal advisor who went to Japan shortly after Lorenzo Fertitta purchased the assets of PRIDE from Dream Stage Entertainment, has shut down the PRIDE FC Worldwide office in Tokyo. Furthermore, the report claims that Pollack fired all PRIDE WW employees with a telephone call.
    PRIDE public relations boss Mr. Sasahara (who is/was close to Hustle and Nobuyuki Sakakibara) issued a public apology to the fans. Sasahara said that the PRIDE staffers are confused and bewildered by the sudden closing of the office, further adding that he feels resentment towards the way the American owners betrayed the people who supported PRIDE. Sasahara reiterated that he believed what Lorenzo Fertitta had initially stated about the future of PRIDE, but now the operation is finished and staffers couldn’t access or get to cell phones or personal computers.”

    To say that they couldn’t secure a TV deal is strange. Pride, DREAM, K1 Heroes, WVR, DEEP and many others did. The thing about the venues is just an excuse. Do you really think that Pride and the UFC combined could not secure venues and a TV deal when both previously had done so themselves. They didn’t want to continue Pride, whether that was the intention from the start or not I don’t know but they decided to close it. From the ashes of Pride 3 organisations started in Japan, all got TV deals, all got venues but all are weaker than pride ever was. DREAM, WVR and DEEP all have some connection to the former Pride organization. It is like Pride was divided into 4 with the UFC getting the lions’ share. Japan has had Rings, Shooto, Pride, WVR, DREAM, K! Heroes, Pancrase, DEEP and many others over the years and have had the biggest MMA organisations more than once and the 2nd biggest more often than not. The opportunity was there and they blew it.

  • Rece Rock says:

    Fair enough I was going based upon my take from the various reports I read over the years and what I remember the excuses or problems were back then but I’m glad u actually went and looked it up…

    My real point was that I don’t think the Japanese businessmen/ players at the time cared for Lorenzo, DW & co. And seemed they rather not do business with them or it seemed business was being conducted with great difficulty thus the end result, but like I said this is my take on it…

  • Sykotick says:

    I’m pretty sure Zuffa’s decision to close Pride had more to do with the contracts for their fighters not being exclusive and just cuz you buy a company doesn’t mean you can change the contracts that have already been signed

  • LiverPunch says:

    Where did you get that from sykotik?. I think you are just guessing. I think in hindsight they would have acted differently. Having 90% of the biggest names that they missed out on in the US fighting for the UFCs biggest ever domestic opposition , would be good enough reason to keep Pride going. I think they would regret it for sure. If they knew that by closing Pride they would end up with todays MMA landscape and ultimately lose US market share as a result , Pride would still be putting on shows today. It was a rash , short sighted decision. I think that those who made the decision were so exited that Pride was dead that they got carried away. The end result is yet to be seen but what the gained from closing pride was short term and the damage caused to the UFC is still growing. The idea that it was because the contracts were not exclusive makes no sense at all. When ZUFFA bought the UFC most UFC fighters were not on exclusive contracts. I cant understand your reasoning.

  • LiverPunch says:

    What killed Pride was the yakuza. What made sure it remained dead and kept the UFC out of Japan was probably the yakuza.

  • Sykotick says:

    Liver, call it an educated guess, but that’s just my opinion.

    And you can’t compare the purchase of the UFC to the purchase of pride.

    When Zuffa bought the UFC, it was an untested product, with an unknown market to Tap.
    When Zuffa bought Pride, the UFC was already in full force, so they could do what they wanted with the newly acquired company.

    I believe the Yakuza thing was just a rumor
    And lastly, bone of us know for sure, all we can do is speculate


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