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The ghost of Seiya Kawamata: Sengoku waves white flag for NYE, will work with K-1 on NYE

By Zach Arnold | November 12, 2009

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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.

Topics: Japan, K-1, MMA, Media, Sengoku, Zach Arnold | 16 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

16 Responses to “The ghost of Seiya Kawamata: Sengoku waves white flag for NYE, will work with K-1 on NYE”

  1. BM2 says:

    R.I.P. Sengoku?

  2. GassedOut says:

    It certainly looks like the beginning of the end.

  3. Raida says:

    Glad really. Sengoku totally blew anf their NYE looked lamer than a box of dead cats. Now hopefully FEG’s NYE show will be awesome and we won’t see Saku-Takase which has been rumoured.

  4. Ziggy says:

    (…) Kazuyoshi Ishii has always conquered his rivals and absorbed them.

    Like who?

  5. squabbles says:

    Sengoku has a promising platform. I think they can make it work.

  6. 45 Huddle says:

    I have been openly rooting for one of the two big Japanese organizations to fail for some time now. At the time, I was hoping Sengoku would be the one to go on. That was mostly based on my perception that Sengoku was running their promotion more like a MMA company should. However, with multiple incidences of politics getting involed, I think DREAM and Sengoku were about on even ground in terms of their bad decisions. So it really doesn’t matter which one fails.

    Japanese MMA is definitly weird. They have this wonderful feeder system which includes DEEP, Pancrase, Shooto, Cage Force, and probably one or two others I might be missing. And yet they have never been able to structure the sport properly in order to cultivate the home grown talent needed to make a constant stream of stars.

    Also, this will mean one less option for American fighters. The decision has actually been made very simple for the better fighters:

    1) Sign exclusive contract with the UFC.

    2) Sign with DREAM/Strikeforce to their non-exclusive deals which basically allows the fighter to go back and forth between organizations.

    Since (and including) the fall of Pride, we have seen these organizations fail…. Pride, IFL, WFA, Bodog, Affliction, EliteXC, Sengoku, & Yarennoka. Bellator is likely next.

    The MMA landscape is very different then it was 2 years ago, that is for sure. And it doesn’t seem like any more rich people will be making the investment anytime soon.

  7. Alan Conceicao says:

    The MMA landscape is very different then it was 2 years ago, that is for sure. And it doesn’t seem like any more rich people will be making the investment anytime soon.

    This narrative is about 4 years old now. Oddly, it has never been true. Likelihood it will be soon; Zero. At least as long as someone is making money.

  8. Dave says:

    Yes, RIP Sengoku. Co-promoting with K-1 almost always spells the end. At this point the term co-promotion is a formality for the press so they can create more buzz around this show.

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    “This narrative is about 4 years old now. Oddly, it has never been true. Likelihood it will be soon; Zero. At least as long as someone is making money.”

    A few years ago, it was extremely different. A lot of money marks enterted the business thinking they could duplicate the UFC’s success. All of those marks have come and gone and failed. Today there is none of those people left. So yes, I would say things have dramatically changed. Add on the fact that the Japanese MMA Scene is done nothing but go downhill since Pride’s demise, and the ability for anybody to make money in this sport is basically zilch (not including the UFC).

    Even Strikeforce is stuck. CBS will not sign them to a long term deal as long as they have the “potential” to sign with the UFC. This leaves Strikeforce stuck in limbo land and the inability to really make money.

    And with DREAM/Sengoku… Does anybody really have faith that they can make money enough to really compete? Highly unlikely.

  10. Dave says:

    Compete with what? This has nothing to do with UFC, 45. FEG has a lot of money and knows how to promote in Japan. UFC has no following in Japan, this has nothing to do with UFC.

  11. jr says:

    It’s unfortunate the fighters will have less contract leverage but this had to be done

  12. Alan Conceicao says:

    A few years ago, it was extremely different. A lot of money marks enterted the business thinking they could duplicate the UFC’s success. All of those marks have come and gone and failed. Today there is none of those people left.

    EXC, Bodog, and the IFL are gone. In their place is Bellator, Strikeforce, MFC, and XFC. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Additionally, as Dave notes, DREAM locking up the market in Japan was the most likely scenario and probably the best for its continued existence there. The UFC plays little into that organization’s plans – Its now about incorporating the Sengoku talent, lining up the farm systems that Don Quixote was funding heavily, and pushing forwards. Growth is not certain, nor is death. But if there’s a foundation for growth, its far stronger with only one company in Japan right at this moment.

  13. Dave says:

    Plus K-1 has a dumb partner in Strikeforce. SF will get their name out in the US some more, and if they take off with fans they’ll try to do some co promotions in the US, if not it is no loss for them.

  14. Chuck says:

    “Add on the fact that the Japanese MMA Scene is done nothing but go downhill since Pride’s demise”

    Minus K-1. As it seems to me, they are still making about as much money as they were during the days of PRIDE. Last year’s World Grand Prix Finals got their highest ratings that they got in years I think. That was probably because they didn’t really have much competition to deal with. K-1 and FEG (and by extension DREAM) will do fine. But Sengoku on the other hand……..they are fucked. They should just become a smaller company like Pancrase or Shooto.

  15. GhostDivision says:

    Just want to mention maybe you can comment on this zach, on sherdog there is a post claiming don quiote pulled sponsership from sengoku and put his sponsership toward dream.

    The way it sounds is WVR is already finished.

  16. [...] un articulo de el periodista deportivo independiente, Zach Arnold (todo un freelancer) al parecer el objetivo final de FEG, es succionar lo mas marketeable de [...]

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