By Zach Arnold | July 13, 2011
Image of Tokyo Sports newspaper (July 10, 2011 edition) uploaded online by Ray Sefo. Copyright: Tokyo Sports shimbun.
Ray Sefo was booked this past weekend for Antonio Inoki’s IGF event at Tokyo Dome City Hall. Sefo, along with former K-1 fighters like Jerome Le Banner & Peter Aerts, are now booked in high-profile positions for Inoki.
Kazuyoshi Ishii’s former fighters continue to make claims in the Japanese press (in a rather aggressive fashion) that K-1 owes them a lot of money. Mr. Sefo claims he is owed $700,000USD. Tokyo Sports ran an article on Ray’s claims, including further claims of up to 20 big named fighters who are allegedly disgruntled with K-1.
Before we approach the politics of Inoki & Ishii, I think there is one (unfortunate) observation that needs to be pointed out in regards to all the fighters who are crying foul right now about K-1. You knew who you were working for and you knew the politics of the Japanese scene there in terms of declining business and just who is involved. Your claims of financial harm may very well be justified but those same claims are also tempered by who you were doing business with.
Take note of recent reports about Kazuyoshi Ishii claiming that he will run a non K-1 event next year with ‘new backers.’ K-1 is still his baby, so for him to say he’s going to run a separate event is basically shifting from one deal to another in order to avoid the image baggage.
As for Antonio Inoki, Inoki never does anything without political consequence. He’s not booking Ray Sefo, Jerome Le Banner, Peter Aerts, and other former K-1 fighters because he’s a benevolent man looking to burn through someone else’s money. Mr. Inoki and Mr. Ishii go way back, decades, in terms of business dealings. Remember, Inoki is backed by Tatsuo Kawamura, the entertainment agent/broker who used to go to school with the late Hiromichi Momose (the original backer of PRIDE). It’s a small world.
Le Banner is set to face Josh Barnett in the main event of Inoki’s 8/27 Tokyo, Ryogoku Kokugikan event. He is running this as a protest event to the multi-promotional Tokyo Sports event in Tokyo at Nippon Budokan featuring NOAH, New Japan, and All Japan. That show is supposed to be a charity show, although I don’t know how much of a charitable mood All Japan is in given their recent dust-up with Tokyo Sports.
Right now, the political scene in the Japanese fight game is becoming more derisive as the pool of money shrinks. The claws are out everywhere.
As for the DREAM event this weekend in Tokyo at Ariake Colosseum, there has been zero mainstream media coverage for the upcoming event this weekend. (Tim Leidecker event preview here.) I can’t fathom how many paid tickets they will be for that event. The misery never stops.