By Zach Arnold | November 12, 2009
Sengoku was supposed to have a New Year’s show at Ariake Colosseum in Tokyo with Hidehiko Yoshida vs. Satoshi Ishii. Ariake Colosseum is a nice mid-sized building, around 10,000 seats, but it’s not even Yokohama Arena in the grand scheme of business. Therefore, Yoshida vs. Ishii in a building of that size should have been a sell-out. So why did the promotion wave the white flag and fold up its tent in order to co-promote an event with K-1 at Saitama Super Arena? Money.
Business has sucked horribly at the Sengoku shows. They can’t draw and the attempted roll-out of Ishii by both World Victory Road and by Ishii’s management may go down in the history books as the worst handling of a major-league rookie superstar prospect we’ve seen to date in MMA. Heavy words, yes, but a pretty accurate statement in my opinion.
There are already comparisons being thrown about of Sengoku and K-1 working together as somehow being similar to PRIDE & K-1, which is ironic given what we know about PRIDE’s collapse and who was an admitted yakuza fixer during that time — one Seiya Kawamata, the man whose interviews with Shukan Gendai led to trouble.
With K-1 & Sengoku now working together on NYE, Sadaharu Tanigawa says we’re getting a 19-match card with Sakuraba, Tamura, Aoki, and a slew of fighters.
The question now for Sengoku is just how crippled the promotion is and if it will eventually die off. At this point, it’s a relatively useless shell organization with K-1 having all the power and none of the liabilities that World Victory Road has to pay for. It’s like what Pancrase was a few years ago to PRIDE for the Bushido shows.
Whether Kawamata is still involved in the business as a fixer is unknown, but Kazuyoshi Ishii has always conquered his rivals and absorbed them. Would be no surprise at all if Kawamata is still around.
We know Kazuyoshi Ishii loves interpromotional feuds and likes to push rivalries amongst factions. It’s his playbook, practically speaking. With Sengoku, he has a powerless ‘ally’ he can control and essentially tinker with as far as matchmaking goes. Sengoku is losing money promoting their own shows and as long as it’s not K-1 money, they could care less because ultimately Ishii controls the pipeline for Japanese TV in the fight business over there and you only get on if you work with him.
We’ve had various factions feud or co-promote with K-1 over the years (PRIDE, Yarennoka, now Sengoku) and in the end K-1 managed to control the outcome they wanted. The big question is whether or not Kazuyoshi Ishii gives Satoshi Ishii a big push. It’s a touchy situation if K-1 can’t have its tentacles into Ishii contractually-speaking in the long-run. On the flip side, K-1 has to be pretty confident that even if they do push Ishii on their TV platform that Sengoku will continue to lose money on their shows, so why should they care? Eventually K-1 will grab any of the Sengoku fighters they want.
Added comment (11/14): This post was translated by a Japanese site with the tagline of “the always pessimistic Zach Arnold.” Made me laugh. Not sure if I was exactly pessimistic here at all, just telling it like it is with the way K-1 does business and seemingly wins.