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Kawamata interviewed in Shukan Gendai

By Zach Arnold | April 5, 2006

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By Zach Arnold

Since the release of three Yamaguchi-gumi yakuza members last month, many insiders in the Japanese fight industry have been wanting to hear the reaction from Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003 promoter, Seiya Kawamata. This week’s edition of Shukan Gendai is the first part of a long series in which the magazine talks to Mr. Kawamata about the role of the yakuza in the fight industry.

Before you read the article contents, some quick points to note.

A summary translation of Kawamata’s interview with Shukan Gendai

“The Connections between the yakuza and the TV networks – ‘I’ll be killed if I come back to Japan'”

This article is the first part of a longer series of articles, with the next installment being published next week. Shukan Gendai is continuing it’s exposure on PRIDE’s supposed yakuza links, with an interview from the man who (claims) used to look after all of K-1’s yakuza affairs, Mr. Seiya Kawamata. Kawamata has the following to say:

“I keep a weapon with me at all times. I cannot go outside. The yakuza are attacking my friends now. I am worried about my family, and I moved them again. If I come back to Japan, I will be killed.

I know everything about the background of the connections between the yakuza, fight promoters, and the TV networks. I was a yakuza in Kansai. I had a small yakuza group and I was the boss of this small yakuza group.

Around 1996, K-1 founder Mr. Ishii asked me for my help with his yakuza problems. I had left the yakuza then and went to Tokyo. I took care of all of Ishii’s yakuza problems, including taking care of local yakuza issues and in that way, I became the main yakuza fixer for K-1.

It is not acceptable that the yakuza should be in the front row of the shows. This was especially a problem for Fuji TV. I would move the yakuza from the front-row VIP seats to private rooms in the back. This is the way I took care of those yakuza and got familiar with them.

At one time, I was summonsed by Mr. Ishii to a hotel room. At this time, he told me that the management of Ernesto Hoost was going to move him to another promotion. When I went into the room, there was a group of yakuza in the room. Ishii had called these yakuza to threaten the manager of Ernesto Hoost.

Ishii then introduced me to the yakuza who would eventually threaten me for the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye event.

I completely left the yakuza in 1999. I then began to management talent including Akina Nakamori. I also became the Japanese manager of Mirko Cro Cop in February of 2003. I was going to get rid of the yakuza from the fight world and establish my own event. I scheduled an event between Mirko Cro Cop vs. Hidehiko Yoshida for the Summer of 2003.

In April of 2003, I was approached by Kunio Kiyohara, a Fuji TV producer who I knew from a long-time ago who was planning for the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix tournament at the time, which would conflict with this event and he asked me to postpone my event. In return, he asked me to work with PRIDE for their New Year’s Eve event. At the time, I knew that DSE was actually owned by a yakuza named Mr. I (Ishizaka) and that Sakakibara had deep relations with the yakuza. I knew that DSE was totally overrun by the yakuza, and nobody knew who had control of the company. Therefore, I refused to work with PRIDE. Then, Kiyohara said to me, “Sakakibara works very well with the yakuza, so you should meet him at least once.” So, I met with Mr. Sakakibara.

I talked to Sakakibara about his contacts and relations to the yakuza, Mr. I (Ishizaka). Sakakibara said that he had no contacts with the yakuza and said that he could make all of the decisions for PRIDE. I believed him as a gentleman, so I made an agreement with DSE. That agreement said that I would cancel by August event and that I would provide Mirko Cro Cop to PRIDE in June & August. In return, DSE would pay me 30 million yen and we would do the PRIDE New Year’s Eve event together.

During negotiations for broadcasting the New Year’s Eve event, Sakakibara told me that he wanted me to meet with Mr. I (Ishizaka). When I contracted with Nippon TV, DSE decided to go with Fuji TV.

On December 15th, Kawamata’s event was impacted by a big problem. Suddenly, Mirko Cro Cop announced that he could not fight for Kawamata’s event. In the background, it was clear that DSE had worked with Mirko to stop his appearance for Kawamata. DSE promised Mirko a title shot if he stayed off my event and that PRIDE would not use Mirko any more if he worked for my event.

Nippon TV said that if Mirko couldn’t fight that we should get Fedor. At that time, Fedor had joined Red Devil. His representative was Australian lawyer Miro Mijatovic. I signed a contract with him for the appearance of Fedor. There was no legal problems with his contract at all. However, DSE attacked me and said that Fedor was a PRIDE fighter and that I had stolen a PRIDE fighter. This was totally just hot air. DSE had no legal rights to Fedor, and so they used the yakuza to attack me for his appearance.

Around this time, I suddenly received a call from the yakuza man named Mr. S (Sakamoto) who said that he had heard of my problems with PRIDE. S (Sakamoto) said that the yakuza man Mr. I (Ishizaka) from DSE wanted to meet with him and me for this problem. S said that he was on my side. If I refused him, S said that he would demand a meeting with Mr. Inoki.

When I joined the meeting on December 21, 2003, at the Akasaka Tokyu hotel, I was ordered to take a seat. In the arranged room, S (Sakamoto) and his juniors were waiting and they threatened me at that meeting. After a little while, Mr. I (Ishizaka) & Sakakibara came into the room together. Then they started to yell at me, “It’s not only Sakakibara that you’re dealing with. We own PRIDE. What are you doing taking our fighters? Kiyohara from Fuji TV has said that we can’t let Fedor fight on Nippon TV’s program. Kiyohara said that if Fedor fights on Inoki’s show that they will cut their contract with DSE, etc.” I was shocked that Sakakibara would be present at this sort of meeting. His attitude was totally different than usual. He threw a fight magazine at me and said, “What the hell is this?”

Finally, S (Sakamoto) said to me, “You have to give up on Fedor.” The yakuza said that DSE had already made it’s decisions with DSE because I was threatened at this meeting. I couldn’t attend the press conference on time. I told everything to Shuji Miyamoto (Nippon TV producer). He knew that if I had Fedor fight that there was a yakuza risk. Miyamoto said to me, “There is no legal problem with the Fedor contract, so let’s get a stronger yakuza group to solve this problem.”

Mr. Sakakibara is famous and appears on many Fuji TV programs. So, this is a major problem for Fuji TV who has a moral duty not to associate with the yakuza. When asked for comment, Fuji TV’s PR department had to this to say:

“We cannot make any comment about the schedule and discussions had by our staff. We do not know anything about yakuza matters. Fuji TV has no relationship to the contracts between DSE and its fighters.”

Nippon TV refused any comment.

Next week, we will reveal even more shocking revelations from Mr. Kawamata in his exclusive interview.

Topics: All Topics, Japan, Media, MMA, PRIDE, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

One Response to “Kawamata interviewed in Shukan Gendai”

  1. […] UFC purchasing PRIDE could bring a bright spotlight from both American (FBI) and Japanese (Tokyo Metropolitan Police & Kanagawa Police) authorities. This is a strong and sobering statement to make, but it is applicable given what has been publicly stated and reported. If, as written, it is believed that PRIDE’s real/virtual owner Mr. I (Ishizaka aka Kim Dok-Soo) is the man behind PRIDE, selling PRIDE to UFC would create some controversy. As noted before by Shukan Gendai, Mr. I (Ishizaka) is still in hiding. The Kanagawa Police received their complaint from admitted yakuza-fixer Seiya Kawamata about his claims of yakuza threats (which he alleges involved Mr. I’s support) and have been reportedly trying to search for Mr. I, but they have not seen him in Japan. Several months ago, Gendai stated that the belief was that he was hiding in South Korea. […]

  2. […] In 2007, it’s the Japanese gangs (that were tolerated and negotiated with in the past by fight promoters, workers, and agents) that have managed to gradually destroy a fight industry that was prosperous and booming as recently as three years ago. Turf wars, murders, loan sharking, and many other unsavory characteristics associated with the yakuza have crept up in public view for consumption in relation to the fight game. As with other business activities in Japan, the various yakuza groups have attempted to take sides in the fight industry. A turf-war with real life consequences, expanding into Japan’s capital of Tokyo for all the world to see. Turf wars make things very uncomfortable for certain fight promoters. Multiple murders (as demonstrated last week) and suicides (including Kokusui-kai boss Kazuyoshi Kudo) aren’t making life very comfortable for people involved in the fight game who are connected to the yakuza. It’s all troubling signs for Japanese fight fans, wondering if the yakuza will start to publicly show their faces more strongly at fight events to prove a point. As noted by yakuza-fixer Seiya Kawamata, yakuza big-shots like to be seen and heard at major Japanese fighting events. […]

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