By Zach Arnold | November 18, 2011
Here’s the card line-up so far for UFC Japan 2012 at Saitama Super Arena:
- UFC Lightweight title match: Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson
- Lightweights: Anthony Pettis vs. Joe Lauzon
- Welterweights: Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields
- Middleweights: Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch
I can already picture the conversation that is going to take place with more frequency as we get closer to the show. I’ve already gotten a taste of it online and it goes something like this:
“This card is great on paper but the Japanese aren’t going to care about it.”
“Who cares? If the Japanese fans can’t get with the program and like what the rest of the world likes, then that’s their problem. It’s their fault if the card doesn’t draw.”
“That’s not the point. Matchmaking in Japan has always been about themes, emotion, and cultural significance.”
“What do you want UFC to do? They got paid to bring a sold show to Japan and they’re bringing a great UFC card. This is who they are. Why should we dumb down our product for the Japanese fans?”
“If you’re not going to produce a card tailored for Japanese fans who have to wake up at 6 in the morning and hit the arena by 10 AM in order to see the show take place…”
“Listen, they’re bringing a great card to Japan and once the Japanese fans see it, they will like it. The UFC bug will spread like a virus and it will sweep the country.”
“An American company with an American face with an American philosophy on matchmaking and there is no substantive broadcast TV deal, so none of the fans know who the people fight on this card are.”
“When WWE went to Japan, they did well at Yokohama Arena in 2003.”
“That’s because they had a television deal with Fuji TV to air on broadcast TV. Once Fuji TV ended the deal, WWE’s drawing power in Japan for live shows evaporated.”
“When Mariah Carey has a concert in Japan, do the Japanese fans expect her to sing in Japanese?”
“Well, no, but fighting is a whole different ball of wax here…”
This kind of dialog is going to be building up in the coming months. By the way, give Shu Hirata all the credit in the world for exposing the fact that UFC got a sold show deal for UFC Japan from Dentsu, Japan’s second largest ad agency. The whole media theme about UFC Japan is how brave and courageous Dana White is going back into the lion’s den after PRIDE has died and how UFC is going to conquer the holy grail of Japan. The reality, of course, is that Dana’s basically on a free roll here for a vanity show.
Let me tell you, if Dana White and UFC had any sort of financial risk heading into this show, there’s no way in hell they would book the card they currently have for Saitama Super Arena. When I say this remark, I know that it comes across horribly as far as agents, trainers, and fighters thinking that I’m not disrespecting them. I’m not doing that at all. In fact, if this card was presented for a US show, I’d be very excited to watch it. However, through experience and through the filter I see things through in regards to what the Japanese care about, this card line-up is not going to be red hot for appeal and, in my opinion, Dentsu’s probably having second thoughts about what they just got themselves into.
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This week’s MMA Link Club featured stories
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