By Zach Arnold | December 18, 2008
Daily Sports newspaper in Japan has everyone buzzing about the possibility of Satoshi Ishii signing with Zuffa instead of with DREAM. The paper’s angle is that if Ishii signs with UFC, he won’t be fighting in Japan.
It’s an intriguing story. It’s not uncommon for a Japanese fight star to use the name value of an American promotion (think: WWE and Japanese wrestlers) to try to build up credibility back home. The “oh, look, WWE is interested in me! But I stayed home in Japan because I’m loyal to you” spin.
That said, if Ishii signs with UFC, there’s only one reason for Zuffa to make this move — to run shows in Japan. The problem for UFC is that the climate on the ground for them is hostile — they’ll need someone like a Total Sports Asia or someone else to promote events on the ground for them. If Zuffa goes alone into Japan, they will bleed cash heavily and lose face. Japan is a very delicate situation.
Further making things interesting is the return of Godfather (Kazuyoshi) Ishii, who pulled good ratings for the K-1 World GP event at Yokohama Arena on Fuji TV. If (Satoshi) Ishii ends up in UFC, will K-1 have their hands on this situation? The Godfather always has been a big believer in promotion vs. promotion feuds for marketing, and K-1/DREAM vs. UFC would be interesting — but would rely entirely on K-1 to market the feud in Japan because UFC has no juice currently in that marketplace.
I don’t believe the idea of (Satoshi) Ishii working for UFC in the States and in Europe for a second. This is a young man who is going to command a very high salary. He’s not fighting for $8,000 USD a fight — given his stature in Japan, more like $800,000 USD a fight. Plus, there are some interesting political aspects as far as who is controlling Ishii right now — the Inoki side of power (revolving around Naoya Ogawa).
Entertaining fodder to contemplate on a slow news day.
Update (12/18): Nikkan Sports says that Ishii will be in Las Vegas to watch the UFC 92 show.