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« | Home | »

The clock is ticking on K-1’s imploding Dynamite show

By Zach Arnold | November 28, 2010

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The deadline is approaching for K-1 this week to get everything in order if there is going to be a Dynamite show taking place at Saitama Super Arena. December is already approaching and there is still no official word regarding a television contract between Tokyo Broadcasting System & K-1 for what has been traditionally Japan’s biggest yearly fighting show. If TBS does not offer substantial money to K-1 to produce a NYE event, the question is not whether the Dynamite show will lose money… but just how much will be lost.

There are multiple scenarios on the table. The worst of all worlds would involve K-1 paying TBS for television time. Another bad outcome would be K-1 receiving little or no money (bartering), which would prohibit the promotion from being able to spend the kind of money needed to book big-name talent to pop a big TV rating. If a deal between K-1 and TBS falls apart, K-1 could very well find themselves in a scenario where they run a DREAM-type no-TV event.

(This is the current conventional wisdom amongst some Japanese insiders I’ve talked to over the weekend.)

If that happens, the event will largely be a meaningless exercise that could lose money but not as much as a pay-for-play scenario. If a TV deal falls apart, the smart solution would be for K-1 to cancel the NYE event and either stay on the sidelines or work with Sengoku for their Ariake Colosseum event. (Who would have ever thought that this would be a possibility?) Given that a month ago K-1 tried to portray itself as a ‘big brother helping out a little brother’ by offering to work with Sengoku for their 12/30 Tokyo event, it would be a major loss of face if K-1 canceled the Dynamite event. Which is why, in the end, it’s likely the show will go on in Saitama even without television. This is all about saving face and maintaining image even with a steep price tag. Understand that K-1 needs momentum and something positive to point to in order to maintain their ties with both Fuji TV and Tokyo Broadcasting System. If Dynamite bombs, their future on network television will be shaky.

The stress is enormous right now on K-1’s staff. They have their 12/11 Ariake Colosseum event for Fuji TV that they need to sell tickets for. So far, the primary focus for promotional operations this week has been for the Ariake show. It’s going to be tough for K-1 to sell out that event. Now, combine that with the fact that they are in a terrible position going into the Dynamite show with little or no momentum and something has to give.

In past years with the Dynamite event, event planning often started as early as mid-September. Sketch out a plan, start having ad agencies put out feelers, and by November get a television contract done. We are now heading into December and there’s no (official) deal worked out. The silence from both K-1 and Dynamite on this front is deafening. This is the week we will find out whether or not the Dynamite show has a TV deal. There’s always the possibility that K-1 could try to get the show on another network, but at this point those options would be severely limited because NYE plans are already tentatively in place for the major networks like Nippon TV, Fuji TV, etc. TV Tokyo is a possibility, but it’s the smallest of the over-the-air channels in terms of reach and would be viewed as a major step-down image wise compared to TBS.

The scope of just how much planning going into a big show like Dynamite cannot be understated. There’s the TV side of the equation. There’s the actual production of the show at the arena. There’s the promotional operations machine. Then you have to sell advertising (and this is especially difficult if you don’t have the help of an ad agency connected to a major TV network). On top of that, there’s the actual matchmaking and construction of a fight card where you have to deal with tons of egos and demands from both agents and talent. You have to book hotel rooms and make sure everything logistically is sound. I understand that this is not K-1’s first rodeo, but the promotion is not on the same level as PRIDE was when it comes time to doing work from the ground-up for a massive show. K-1 has always been the TV promotion and PRIDE was the live house promotion. With the TV deal in complete limbo, K-1’s in a major predicament here.

On the TBS web site, there are no details announced regarding a deal with K-1. There is a match announcement of Hiroyuki Takaya vs. Bibiano Fernandes and that’s it. Nothing else. Amongst the ticket brokers, there is only basic event information given out.

The long-term survival prospects for K-1 will be largely determined by how well the 12/11 Ariake Colosseum and 12/31 Saitama Super Arena shows do business-wise. If they are money losers, the promotion will be on its last legs. If the shows can somehow break even or make a little money, then life goes on.

This is one of the most important weeks in the history of K-1’s organization.

Topics: Japan, K-1, MMA, Media, Zach Arnold | 26 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

26 Responses to “The clock is ticking on K-1’s imploding Dynamite show”

  1. Jonathan says:

    So much Satoshi Ishii being the savior of K-1, and to a larger scale, kaktougi in Japan.

  2. Dave says:

    I’ve heard certain vendors are sold out of WGP tickets as of last week.

    Ed. — I think the crowd will be OK for the Colosseum show. However, a 10,000-seat building is a 10,000 seat building and trying to run two major shows in month with shaky circumstances is a really hard task.

  3. Zach Arnold says:

    http://twitter.com/andrewhdnet/status/9044109746511872

    http://twitter.com/andrewhdnet/status/9057564763365377

    I was tempted to write a separate post, but I won’t.

    I was the one who spelled out the troubles of PRIDE starting in November 2005 up until the promotion crumbled and even on its final days people were still in complete denial about it.

    There is no textbook to understand about the Japanese fight business. There’s a lot of mafia elements to it and you have to understand the structure of the gangs. This isn’t kid’s play and this isn’t some cute movie where mobsters are glorified.

    Combine that with the fact that you have lots of dummy companies, shadow alliances, and many moving parts and you have to be a lifer or at least have a fundamental understanding of what’s happening to really understand why things operate the way they do.

    I’m not surprised that people are still in the dark but I’m disappointed by it because given past history with PRIDE, you can educate yourself relatively well on the warning signs of things to come.

    Now, with all of that said… you do not have to be a genius to understand the K-1 business model. They were the TV promotion in Japan while PRIDE was the house show promotion. When Fuji TV cut their ties to PRIDE, suddenly PRIDE’s shows at Saitama Super Arena were money losers. Even a strong live event promotion like PRIDE was devastated when the TV money stopped flowing.

    Take away the TV money and exposure and K-1’s left ill-equipped to run major shows (even on an outsource basis to other promoters like Simon Rutz). The whole K-1 model is predicated on running shows simply for TV money. If they don’t have a TV network paying them for shows, then the outsourced shows don’t mean anything to them as far as their bottom line is concerned.

    As for this:

    http://www.headkicklegend.com/2010/11/25/1836618/feg-negotiating-contract-with-tokyo-broadcasting-system-for-dynamite#52861620

    Those were the same kind of echoes I heard from people in denial during the collapse of PRIDE.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I remember for about 6 months you were writing about the demise of PRIDE.

      And then I would just casually check out message boards and if anybody brought up the fact that PRIDE was potentially going under, they were met with anger and people calling them stupid.

    • Dave says:

      I heard from one of FEG’s stalwarts, a fighter that is very closely associated with them and loyal. I can’t disclose who because I promised I wouldn’t, but his plan is to jump ship and he is very, very mad. He isn’t alone.

      Andrew Simon is a good guy, but from what I’ve seen he tends to believe his business partners. He flipped out at me and called me a liar when I said DREAM.17 wasn’t happening on the HDnet planned date, told me to talk to Mike Kogan and get my facts straight. I told him this was direct from Kogan.

      At this point, they still had everything ready to go, crews waiting to go to Japan, travel, etc. That should be a sign, but he is still trusting. Kogan has admitted he has no clue if he will have a job in 2011 and there is some rumors pointing towards him possibly helping It’s Showtime with their US shows coming up, so he might be angling to work with them (total speculation, btw).

      I think the easiest way to explain (a lot of) Japanese companies to people is that they are a front for money laundering operations.

      The scale and popularity of DREAM shows means they should be not only turning a profit, but flourishing, even with less ratings than before. But the truth is, they are set to be profitable after a certain amount is skimmed.

      As for FEG, PUJI is an investment bank, and my money is on their deal not going through. Why? Due dilligence. PUJI has been using the past few months to evaluate the possible investment, if they don’t see it as profitable and can’t find investors to come onboard with the risk they’ve assessed the company at, that is it, no deal.

      • edub says:

        Zack/Dave:

        Is there any end to these types of business practices in Japan’s sight? I don’t understand how nefarious characters could be tied to something like FEG so quickly after Pride’s scandals.

        Is it just completely overlooked?

        • Zach Arnold says:

          I don’t know about DREAM (what Dave said is what he said), but I do know that the yakuza are often part of ‘the system’ and status quo in Japan. However, the recent escalation and new breed of younger yakuza who are violent for violence sake are a big target of cops now.

        • Mr. Roadblock says:

          At the end of World War II it was feared that the Japanese would become Communists. So our government (U.S.) let a bunch of low level gamblers and whore-runners (the Yakuza) execute the professors, ex-army officers and labor-types who were Pro-Communism.

          The Yakuza was smart enough to insert themselves into every aspect of business life and haven’t been removed yet. Unlike in the U.S. where the various mafia groups, Italian, Irish, Jewish, Russian, Chinese, etc, were immigrants on the outside of the system trying to work their way up, in Japan the gangsters were the system. They were at the ground floor so to speak, the way people in the U.S. that can trace their roots back to the Mayflower are usually well off.

  4. liger05 says:

    Remember a few years ago when New Japan under the Inoki’s would plan a Jan 4th Dome show (biggest show of the year) and by december there was still no card finalised. It was a mess and totally lost interest with the fans as there was no sense of organisation. This K-1 scenario reminds me of that. With just a few weeks to go there is chaos and it doesnt look like its gonna get sorted anytime soon.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    I can’t understand why some people are so sad about K-1 falling…. At least when it pertains to MMA.

    K-1 has never taken MMA seriously. They have operated Hero’s and then DREAM as a way to keep out the competition, not because they cared about it.

    Japan in general has always treated MMA more like a freakshow. Pride was the best of all the organizations in trying to do it more like a sport, but even they didn’t even come close.

    The low level organizations like Shooto, DEEP, and Pancrase are still around. Talent can still be created. The big stage they compete on when they get better will no longer be in their home country….

    • Jonathan says:

      You don’t get it 45 Huddle because not everyone hates K-1/Strikeforce/everything that is not the UFC as much as you do.

      Obviously you cannot understand. Obviously you take delight when an organization goes out of business. You have tied your ego and your identity to the UFC, so through them, you’re living vicariously.

      We get it. You LOVE the UFC and want everything else in this world to fail and go away. We get that already.

      Go the UFC HP and I’m sure you’ll other people like you.

      • edub says:

        Hahahaha so much anger.

      • Jon says:

        Hahaha this post

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I mentioned the UFC ZERO times. You mentioned the UFC FOUR times. So who is the one obsessed with the UFC?

        My comments had nothing to do with the UFC. It had everything to do with how seriously K-1 takes MMA, which isn’t much at all.

        • Jonathan says:

          That would be true…if everything you were not the uber-biased person here. Everyone has called you on it, nd you have admitted as much. That frames everything that you and so on this website….everything that is not the UFC sucks and most everything the UFC does is good, whether that is really the case or not.

  6. robthom says:

    I really cant say what they need to do.

    On the one hand I’m pretty unimpressed by the card.
    Especially for a “new years celebration”.
    Lots of the same names, gimme fights.
    A few good names on the card NOT fighting each other.

    But on the other hand I’m pretty sure thats what the Japanese fans prefer.
    This sort of retread/obviousness over unpredictable competition.

    At least is seemed to be those types of fights that carried the weight for the rest of a pride card.
    And truth be told, the largest murikan crowds seem to indicate the same thing round here also.

    This is just an outsiders observation though.
    I’m not familiar enough with the K1 to know were it needs to go with it.

  7. Mr. Roadblock says:

    This is somewhat off topic. But geez louise the Super Six has become a total cluster-f.

    I was so pumped up about the tournament in the beginning. But it has absolutely disintegrated.

    This past round served no purpose except for proving that Arthur Abraham is more fancy marketing and matchmaking than talent.

    Just do Froch/Ward already before that falls apart too.

    • Well, Abraham is a good fighter – remember that the discussion was how he’d fare with Pavlik originally. But he’s a limited fighter. Dirrell laid a blue print (even if he was gassing and getting walked down in the end of the fight) and Froch delivered huge. I do agree that I’d prefer that we see Froch/Ward first just because, hey, that looks like the obvious finals. I half expect though to see Glen Johnson force Froch to do what Froch does too often and rumble with him. That could ruin the Froch/Ward fight, but only because Johnson might really beat him.

      Should be equally interesting to see what Showtime does with the guys who left the tourney but are still under contract + Bute now that they signed him. They’ve got 8 of the top 10 fighters at 168 under contract. Aside from Andrade and Stieglitz who else is there?

      • edub says:

        It’d be interesting to see Dirrell-Bute. Who knows when/if Dirrell is gonna be healthy again though?

        I like the tournament to play out how it’s set up now. Let Ward beat up Abraham, and Froch and Johnson have a slugfest to see who gets to the finals. No disrespect to Bute The winner of the tournament deserves to be #1 in the world, hands down.

        • mr. roadblock says:

          I definitely think Johnson could win (the whole thing actually). But Abraham/Ward is a worthless fight right now.

          If it were up to me I’d do Ward/Froch and Johnson/Bute and let the winners fight. Just ditch the tournament since it became compromised from the get go. It’s not ‘Six’ anymore since we’ve now had 8 different guys in the damned thing.

        • edub says:

          “If it were up to me I’d do Ward/Froch and Johnson/Bute and let the winners fight.”

          Bute is technically not in the tourney, but I would have absolutely no problem at all with that scenario. Bute’s handlers probably wouldn’t sign for it though.

        • mr. roadblock says:

          You’re right, Edub.

          I’m saying just scratch the damn tourney as is. It doesn’t mean anything.

          If Ward and Froch fight each other right now, the winner is the clear #1.

          Johnson just got into it too and made the semi’s by KO’ing Allan Green, who was also a replacement. I love Glen Johnson and would like to see him beat all these guys and get the validation he deserves. But he and Abraham have no claim to being in the #1 discussion right now.

          Johnson/Bute is a great matchup. Keep them busy and have a clear cut #1 contender to take on the Froch/Ward winner.

          Having Froch and Ward fight in March (or whenever) means the earliest we’re done with this thing is July or August and that’s barring a cut or an injury.

          The whole Super Six tournament is just a colossal mess. I knew the round robin wouldn’t work. As soon as Taylor and Kessler left it negated the whole thing to me. They should have just had Johnson and Green in the beginning and done an 8-man tournament.

          Not to get 45 of Jonathan worked up, but this is the best thing about UFC. They put on a ton of fights I could care less about but they do a real solid job (Fedor excluded) of keeping the best fighters active and having relevant fights.

        • robthom says:

          They have tourney’s for professional boxing?!

          Is that legal?!
          (Guess so.)

          My cousin just came back from fooling around an Andre Ward bout at the Oakland Colosseum.

          Is this the same Ward?
          (or are there numerous Wards of various races? ;) )

          35 bucks seemed like such a good price that I didn’t take it very seriously.

  8. [...] typically done in November, but a deal has yet to be announced with December less than a day away. Fight Opinion’s Zach Arnold explains the severity of the situation. If TBS does not offer substantial money to K-1 to produce a NYE [...]

  9. [...] Eve programming plans for the major broadcast networks in the Japanese media wires today. As I alluded to earlier in the week, this week is one of the most critical weeks in the history of K-1 for their survival and for the [...]

  10. Chuck says:

    robthom;

    The Super Six Classic isn’t a one night tournament. It started last year, and ends next year. As legal as it gets.

    And Showtime is starting a four man bantamweight tournament that will be the course of two shows. Much easier to do than the six man semi-round robin (then down to five after Dirrell pulled out, and now down to the final four).

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