By Zach Arnold | April 4, 2007
By Zach Arnold
Caleb (of The Fightworks Podcast fame) on whether or not UFC’s purchase of PRIDE is good for the sport for MMA.
If the message sent by Shukan Gendai on Monday wasn’t loud enough to Zuffa management to hear, then the message sent by Akira Maeda on Tuesday should do the trick. On the latest edition of FO Radio, co-host Luke Nicholson and I discussed the asset purchase of PRIDE by Zuffa LLC and what some of the risks involved in the deal were. One mutual observation we both agreed upon is that despite his public resignation from PRIDE, Nobuyuki Sakakibara is not likely (in our opinion) going to vanish from the fight game any time soon. After all, this is a man who invested a lot of time and energy in promoting what used to be a hot Japanese entertainment property like PRIDE (an organization that made an estimated $50 million USD in 2004).
Shukan Gendai is feeling its oats right now. They managed to bring down Dream Stage Entertainment and the backers of PRIDE. With a major feather in their cap, it is becoming increasingly clear that Gendai thinks the story still has some juice left in it. The obvious ‘hook’ for them is that the man they labeled as DSE’s ‘virtual owner’, Mr. I, is still supposedly missing and has an outstanding arrent for his arrest in Japan. Until this part of the story has a resolution to it, Gendai’s stance (from my viewpoint) is that the ‘new’ PRIDE may operate a lot like the ‘old’ PRIDE if DSE staffers are in fact kept on board by Zuffa for the ‘new’ PRIDE. Gendai made it very clear on Monday that they will not stop the negative campaign against PRIDE as long as there are fight promoters who want to continue to push the brand in Japan. Gendai focused its attack on Monday on Kunio Kiyohara, a man who used to be in a heavy position in power in Fuji TV to get PRIDE on the network. By attacking Kiyohara and further damaging his public image, they are putting the TV networks on notice that if anyone attempts to back the ‘new’ PRIDE, they will be made an example out of by the magazine. We discussed this on Tuesday and I stated that UFC should pay close attention to where Gendai’s negative campaign is heading.
Akira Maeda must also be feeling his oats as well. His online posting, in my opinion, is really a declaration of war against PRIDE and a warning shot to Zuffa & UFC that the old elements of PRIDE are not going away any time soon. The fact that Maeda took such a public stance is a clear signal that he’s not afraid of the old PRIDE power sources. It also indicates to me that he is laying the ground work to tarnish the ‘new’ PRIDE by claiming that new management (UFC) is not going to get rid of the ‘bad guys’ from the company. My viewpoint is that by establishing this premise so publicly, Maeda is firing a warning message to UFC about running any events under the PRIDE banner in Japan — with an underlying message that ‘if you run ‘PRIDE’ shows in Japan and any of the old DSE elements are around or involved in the events (production, ticket sales, promotion), then expect to get public criticism in Japan about it.’
If I’m working for Zuffa right now and I see such public comments and reports made by people in positions of power that could cause damage in the Japanese marketplace (and maybe outside of Japan), you must pay attention to what is being said and what the likely intent of those statements are. It’s crystal clear that any sort of misstep (unknowingly or knowingly) by Zuffa with the ‘new’ PRIDE is going to be pounced on and attacked. Any associations with questionable people or any sort of blunder will be magnified significantly in the Japanese press. The danger with having someone like Shukan Gendai attacking you is that this kind of publication will not stop their attack. They will call up TV networks to get a public quote. They will track people down (like they did with Kiyohara) and find out as much information as possible. If Gendai finds out or claims that old elements of DSE and the ‘old’ PRIDE are involved in the Zuffa-ran PRIDE, they are certainly not above placing calls to the NSAC (Nevada State Athletic Commission) or the NGC (Nevada Gaming Commission) or even Spike TV to stir the pot and advance a story that they feel will sell a lot of magazines copies and have a big impact.
Yesterday, I deemed Shukan Gendai as an ‘occupational hazard’ that UFC would have to deal with while running shows under the ‘new’ PRIDE banner. Now with Akira Maeda making his public comments, I’m convinced that Zuffa is going to be facing a (figuratively-speaking) bloody Japanese turf war with K-1.
It certainly will have implications on Zuffa management and UFC. The media challenge has been set by the Japanese. Will Zuffa management read the tea leaves and adjust accordingly?
News and rumors
Ratings for the first four IFL MyNetworkTV shows (a full month of programming): 0.8, 0.7, 0.8, and last night’s replay at a 0.7.
Gryphon points to a news report about Diego Sanchez working PRIDE’s upcoming Lightweight GP tournament. The curious thing is what weight limit the tournament would be at and how much weight Sanchez would have to cut to participate.
Pop culture alert
We’re not necessarily hip to popular culture around here (we do cover MMA though, which I think makes us popular enough), but even we in lazy-mode can put two-and-two together when I see two stories that might match-up together.
Yesterday, we saw this MySpace posting from Josh Barnett talking about rowdy American football players acting arrogant at a Playboy Mansion party he went to (via invitation from former PRIDE USA President Ed Fishman).
I shook it down a bit on the dance floor and had a great time overall with the only minus being a s— load of football players who thought they were baddest things to walk the earth. Call me spoiled but at the usual after fight parties the professional athletes from other sports don’t act the fool too much.
Tuesday on ESPN’s Around the Horn TV show, host Tony Reali had a quick segment on the show claiming that the LA Daily News was reporting that American football star Reggie Bush is now persona-non-grata (no longer welcome) at the Mansion due to a ‘conduct violation’. Here you go.
Just a completely lazy observation on our part…
Onto today’s headlines.
- MMA Weekly: Numerous drug test failures in California (over 23 fighters failed tests including Cesar Gracie and Bas Rutten, California fighters sure like their marijuana – related commentary at UFC Junkie)
- Black Athlete: Iowa tries to ban MMA
- The Canadian Press (via CBC Sports): Fall from cliff focuses Kenny Florian on MMA career
- Fox Sports: Boxing vs. MMA
- Grapplemonkey: Truth Fightware V3 stretch board short
- UFC HP: Heath Herring – UFC debut, take two
- The Canadian Press: Las vegas mansion can become a prison for residents on The Ultimate Fighter
- Today’s Sunbeam: Tara LaRosa coming back to New Jersey
- Deadspin: Women’s Thai prison boxing
- Fox Sports: Cameroon’s Sokoudjou goes for another KO (and he states he would not be happy if UFC changed PRIDE’s current fight rules)