By Zach Arnold | February 23, 2012
Lots of little odds & ends happening but nothing major enough to warrant it’s own story, so here we go with some tidbits about what’s happening for this weekend’s show at Saitama Super Arena.
Live house business should be very solid. Dana White claimed today that 20,000 tickets have been sold. The original configuration by Dentsu for SSA was to set it up for 20,000. Every indication I’ve been told, both pro-UFC and anti-UFC in various circles, is that the ticket number is somewhere in the 15,000-17,000 range. At this point, it’s more or less quibbling about real paid vs. papered numbers. It’s in line to do just fine for a first-time show backed by a real entity (Dentsu).
15,000 is Yokohama Arena level and is good for image. Now, of course it helps to have media allies ready to push the image for you as opposed to remaining silent, but you can’t win every battle.
By Japanese appealing standards, UFC Japan 2012 isn’t a great card. By normal UFC metrics, it’s very solid and should produce a lot of close decisions, if not tight finishes. Hard to be negative on that front. Cheick Kongo vs. Mark Hunt could easily turn into a Fight of the Night battle and no one is even talking about that bout.
The TV situation for UFC is not great at all in Japan. This is not their fault, at least not primarily so. With Godfather Ishii still hanging around trying to wine and dine fighters who K-1 owes money to by taking them out to high-end Italian restaurants, we know that the more things change the more they stay the same. Until the bad blood is flushed out of the industry in Japan, don’t expect TV networks to want to invest any sort of major capital into a fight promotion at this point. No TV executive wants to deal with the police breathing down their throat and making them justify why they are giving cash to convicted criminals.
TV Tokyo announced that the UFC Japan show will air late Sunday night 3:15 AM JST to 4:45 AM JST. The network even admitted it was a last-minute line-up edition and will be sponsored by Don Quijote & UFC Undisputed 3. In other words, Dentsu couldn’t even manage to get a daytime or golden time pay-for-play deal on the smallest of the Japanese broadcast networks. Plus, the way the UFC Japan card is constructed, it’s not tailored for Japanese TV.
What most people don’t get about TV Tokyo is that there’s no distribution outside the Kanto region. It’s like being on the New York City version of MyNetwork TV. Sure, it’s a big market, but people in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other media markets are not going to see the channel.
The hope by Dentsu is to try to springboard from TV Tokyo and attract a bigger platform like Fuji TV or Nippon TV to take a chance on UFC. I don’t see it happening, especially given what’s happening right now with the other players in the MMA scene in Japan.
There’s something to be said in Japan about the natives wanting the gaijin to act like gaijin and then leaving instead of hanging around. However, there’s also something to be said about basic protocol and how much Japanese business protocol is adhered to. Dana was Dana today, as you always expect him to be, not wearing a suit or acting exactly statesmanlike. His fans love him for it but people who are on the fence or who are very anal in Japan just notch it, once again, as part of the stereotype they already have about UFC and their ‘lack of respect’ for Japan, no matter how ill-conceived it may be.
Dana had to address the issue today about whether or not he killed PRIDE. (He didn’t, and he said as much. Good for him. Sakakibara and his stooges don’t deserve a pass here.) As I’ve stated all along, Dana’s biggest problem in Japan is that he’s got to shake off the Mitt Romneyesque “Bain Capital as corporate raider” image problem in regards to how the media portrayed him as the evil gaijin outsider who raided PRIDE of its assets and then left nothing behind.
That said, Dana claiming that PRIDE was the only other MMA organization he ever respected in his life? I guess your memory can fade at an early age. He even claimed that Yushin Okami is one of his favorite fighters.
Speaking of PRIDE’s death, what’s not ugly is Spike TV’s Thursday debut of their new MMA talk show at 11 PM EST/PST. 30 minute format. Easily the biggest platform to candidly discuss what exactly happened. Five years after the fact, but nonetheless…
Nikkan Sports, which is backing UFC Japan, has done a commendable job in covering the lead-up to UFC Japan. Yahoo Japan has done a fine job as well. As for the rest of the media…
There are a lot of outlets not covering the show very much. Whether they are choosing to take a pass on it because they don’t see it as a story the natives care about (quite a few) or if its a silent war declaration (a few outlets in that mode), it is what it is. And, for those outlets not wanting to be bothered by covering UFC Japan, they had quite the story fall into their laps when Kenta Kobashi was diagnosed yesterday with a broken left shin bone & right knee ligament damage after his tag match w/ Keiji Mutoh vs. Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori at the ALL TOGETHER 2 charity show in Sendai. Kobashi’s leg was hurting after the match and he couldn’t walk on the leg for a day, so he went to the hospital and the painful discovery was made. He’s out for at least two months.
It’s falling more in line with what WWE did for their 2003 Yokohama Arena show — concert goers, those looking at the new shiny foreign toy for a one-off, so on and so forth. Fighters like Kid Yamamoto are admitting that they’re having to tell fans that there’s a show on Saturday.
The way the Japanese media is covering the UFC Japan show is similar to how they cover DREAM shows. Basic coverage, but not anything over-the-top or any sort of dramatic storylines/angles. The only sort of angle even remotely talked about is Yoshihiro Akiyama’s model wife, SHIHO, helping him cut down to 170 with her version of a diet.