By Zach Arnold | February 1, 2011
Not since promotional attacks in 1995 against then-Weekly Pro Wrestling magazine editor Tarzan Yamamoto can I recall a promotion publicly attacking a veteran writer like you are about to see today. Yamamoto, who was labeled as an anti-New Japan Pro-Wrestling editor, took a beating from fans and was booed unmercilessly everywhere he went.
The writer you’re about to see get mentioned does not remind me of the same type of person as Tarzan Yamamoto, at all.
Manabu Takashima, a competent veteran Japanese MMA writer who often has appeared on TV with dyed silver hair, has lots of street credibility when it comes to understanding the foreign MMA landscape. He’s been around a long time and he’s the kind of guy who, should UFC end up trying to make a big splash in Japan, would prove to be valuable for their efforts if they wanted to hire him for his services outside of writing. (Kind of in the old Wally Yamaguchi role. Only Japanese pro-wrestling fans will understand that analogy.)
So, when I saw this curious article talking about ‘the end of Sengoku’ because of a Gong Kakutougi article, I was amused by the tone. Mr. Takashima is not exactly what you would a tabloid writer. He’s unlikely to be a guy who would launch a Shukan Gendai-type campaign against a promotion.
However, that’s not what Sengoku would like you to believe. In a bizarre statement posted on the company’s web site, the promotion blasted an article that Takashima did in the March edition of Gong Kakutougi magazine. The article theme is ‘our opinion on the interview by Manabu Takashima.’ It starts off talking about since the collapse of PRIDE in 2007 that the Japanese MMA industry had a deep recession and that World Victory Road came along to join the fighters, fans, and mass communiction (media) to help restore the business. It goes on to say that they’re proud to produce big MMA events and do interpromotional fights with DREAM along with the NYE weekend event in Tokyo at Ariake Colosseum. Their viewpoint is that just as things were improving and changing for the future, Manabu Takashima wrote an article that ‘poured cold water’ on their progress that was improper. You can read some of what was said in the Gong article down below, but Sengoku objected to Mr. Takashima’s claims that the organization promoted their NYE weekend event poorly and tried to make it up by booking a lot of matches and used a bigger stage in the building. Additionally, Manabu claimed that fighters signed contracts for the Sengoku 12/30 Tokyo event the day of the show and the promotion disputes the factual accuracy of this claim of ‘irresponsible and groundless’ charges. Sengoku says that they are disappointed that a ‘quality magazine’ like Gong Kakutougi would publish Mr. Takashima’s remarks and that they were launching a protest, demanding a correction and an apology. The promotion claims that they welcome constructive criticism from fans but did not find Mr. Takashima’s personal remarks about Sengoku to be suitable to be attached to what was marketed as an interview with Hatsu Hioki for the magazine.
Essentially, the promotion claims that Takashima’s remarks are damaging to the company’s image and could cause complication with sponsors like Don Quijote. If sponsors back away from the company, then their 4/23 Ariake Colosseum event in Tokyo could be postponed or canceled. The promotion says they are angry at Mr. Takashima’s ‘carelessness’ and expressed strong regret about his comments.
Speaking w/those close to the situation but wish to remain anonymous, this kerfuffle on SRC’s page is a non-issue. Don Quijote is still w/SRC. Rumors of DonQi leaving SRC come by way of another mag, quoting an off-the-record Takao Yasuda musing whether DQ should pull out of MMA.
All Manabu Takashima’s article is guilty of is stating contracts are signed day of or day after. I know several ppl who will attest to this. It should be noted however that this is a common practice in JMMA. The biz here obviously works very differently than back in the West.
Also must note: Takashima is an awesome journalist who has covered Western MMA for ages. His noting this idiosyncracy of JMMA biz is natural.
The question is why SRC is calling out Gong & Takashima specifically. I’ve been told a few theories off record that I can’t repeat here, yet. In any case, DonQi is still behind SRC at the moment, but their April show will likely be pushed back to a later date.
The people I spoke to swear it’s SRC kicking up a fuss over nothing. Another thing that should be noted is that the statement on SRC’s page is signed by WVR itself, rather than any of its representatives. It’s a small detail, but I believe something worth keeping in mind.
For all WVR’s troubles promoting, it’s been hard rallying popular & media support. Despite Takashima writing truths, they’re prob fed up. Also, DonQi may not be gone yet, but there’s always that risk. Remember when folks were saying they split from SRC in late 2009? WVR’s statement is prob a warning shot to the media, and a sign to their benefactor, Yasuda, that they’re addressing this “support” issue.
Gong’s March issue featured an editorial on SRC, saying they try to compensate for meaningless matches with the size of their stage.
Gong claimed that the fighter contracts were also signed on the day of the event. SRC rebutted that and said that there was no evidence at all to support those claims.
SRC 17 was due to be held on April 23 but now may not happen because of this Gong article.
Some of the Japanese magazines are entirely too close to the promoters (namely FEG). I think this is a reaction to this.
Worth noting that the cover of Gong Kakutougi this month is a picture of Hioki vs Sandro and the lead story is a 10,000 character interview.
I don’t like how WVR refuted that by saying that Gonkaku has no evidence. “Not true” would have been a better response.
The contracts thing is really a non-issue. It’s the lack of support from the MMA media.
Usually when promotions have major problems with beat writers, they will threaten them or admonish them (or bribe them) behind the scenes. Old hat. However, to see a promotion pick a target, freeze it, and then publicly define who the target is to create a certain impression is not the norm.
Keep your eyes on the Twitter accounts of both Dan & Tony for updates on the story. You should trust these men.