By Zach Arnold | February 23, 2012
TV: Spike (11 PM EST/PST), MMA Uncensored Live web site
The show is hosted by Mike Straka (@mikestraka). Reportedly, a big topic on the debut show will be the implosion of PRIDE, given that it’s been almost five years since UFC did the asset sale agreement with Sakakibara.
I’m told that the show will cover the scandal in-depth on a heavy level, which would mean the first time a major US media outlet is discussing the ultimate taboo of the Japanese fight industry (the yakuza).
I haven’t seen the show, so I can’t comment on how the story is portrayed until I watch the show. However, if you’re a new visitor and want some reading material to review the background on the implosion of PRIDE, here are some key words to search:
- The yakuza: Organized crime syndicates in Japan. Recently, politicians & police have ramped up the war against the black suits and the suits in turn are threatening to turn Japan “into Mexico.” Major players: Yamaguchi-gumi (largest umbrella group w/ heavy roots in Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, moving towards Kanto area), kudo-kai (sub-group known to have relations with fight industry in the past), kokusui-kai (smaller Kanto-based group), Inagawa-kai (Kanto-based top rival to Yamaguchi, they’ve been dealing with a turf war with Yamaguchi). Rikidozan, the Godfather of Japanese pro-wrestling after the Reconstruction period post-World War II in Japan, was heavily involved in the Underworld.
- Shukan Gendai: This is the weekly magazine that published a series of negative articles about PRIDE in 2006 that caused the public firestorm in regards to creating the yakuza scandal.
- Tadashi Tanaka: Scandal writer who took a lot of heat for his articles but ultimately won the battle.
- Seiya Kawamata: Kawamata was the major focus of the Gendai articles. He’s an admitted yakuza fixer on behalf of K-1 boss Kazuyoshi Ishii. K-1 & PRIDE initially worked together with Antonio Inoki but ended up being blood rivals. Kawamata is a big talker and still is around, but under the radar. Kawamata was the man who managed Inoki’s 2003 New Year’s Eve MMA show at Kobe Wing Stadium. It flopped horribly on Nippon TV.
- Kunio Kiyohara: Kiyohara was the producer at Fuji TV who was heavily involved in the matchmaking & production of PRIDE. PRIDE was his baby. Kiyohara’s father had pull with Sankei Shimbun. When the police started investigating & interrogating Fuji TV employees, Kiyohara was a focus during the PRIDE scandal.
- Miro Mijatovic: Was one of the big three agents during the PRIDE days. He managed Fedor & Mirko Cro Cop in Japan. He managed Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe’s deals. A heavy hitter in the hotel business & investing world. He would soon get sabotaged after Fedor worked Inoki’s 2003 NYE event instead of the PRIDE show on Fuji TV. It was Mijatovic who went after troublemakers when violence allegedly started breaking out. After Kawamata filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Nippon TV over the NYE deal, Miro successfully got a court lien on any winnings Kawamata got in court against NTV. Miro was deemed to be of good character by Tokyo District Court. It’s rare enough to see any court battles in the fight industry rampant with corruption & yakuza… and even rarer that a foreigner took the fight to big players. After the Inoki NYE show, he would end up losing both Fedor & Mirko due to various power plays.
- Toshiro Igari: Famous anti-yakuza lawyer who worked with Miro to go after the bad guys. In fact, Miro’s case was featured in one of Igari’s publications. Igari took on many big fish but may have taken on too big of a one when Sumo was imploding due to various scandals. Igari was a TV personality and vocally stood up against corruption. Before his last book would be published by Kodansha (the same publishing house that produces Shukan Gendai), he was found dead in the Philippines. Few people believe it was suicide, as the yakuza has a way of blurring the lines in regards to making murders look like suicides. Igari got the last laugh from the grave when his biggest book to date was published after his death. This article at The Economist succinctly characterizes Mr. Igari’s end.
- Ken Imai: Ken Imai was Kazuyoshi Ishii’s former right-hand man who left K-1 when all hell broke loose due to a corporate tax evasion scandal. Imai ended up being Nobuyuki Sakakibara’s point man. He pulled Mirko Cro Cop away from Miro and got him into PRIDE. Mirko was supposed to fight on the Inoki NYE show but ended up pulling out due to what he claimed was a back injury. Mirko left Miro and went with Imai just days after the Inoki NYE event. Imai was heavily involved in the business side of K-1 & foreign shows.
- Nobuyuki Sakakibara: The front man for PRIDE. Huge ego. Big talker. Plenty to say. Background was from the Nagoya Fuji TV affiliate, Tokai TV.
- Sotaro Shinoda: Sakakibara’s right-hand man. He, along with Kato (the boss of DREAM) worked with Sakakibara & Kiyohara to put together the PRIDE coalition.
- Mr. Ishizaka aka Kim Dok Soo: He was referred to in Shukan Gendai as the infamous “Mr. I,” the alleged shadow owner of PRIDE who is zainichi (of Korean blood). Kanagawa police put out an arrest warrant and he supposedly fled to South Korea but doesn’t know much Korean language. Think of him as a Godfather type.
- Naoto Morishita: The original front man for PRIDE. He was found dead, hanging by shower curtain in a hotel room. Sakakibara took over after his death.
- Hiromichi Momose: The original Godfather of PRIDE, the man in the ball cap & dark glasses w/ body guards. He was Nobuhiko Takada’s backer when UWF-International collapsed due to money troubles & image damage after an interpromotional series in 1995-1996 with New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Momose, though an entity called KRS, backed the first PRIDE events with Takada vs. Rickson Gracie. Eventually, the company backing PRIDE would be Dream Stage Entertainment. Momose was a classmate in his younger days with Tatsuo Kawamura, the veteran entertainment power broker who has been the power source for Antonio Inoki for many years. Momose is now dead.
- Ed Fishman: Friend of Dick Clark, the man from Malibu who made a name for himself in Las Vegas & Atlantic City through gaming. He was supposedly approached by Sakakibara, after PRIDE lost its Fuji TV deal, for a loan. Ed wanted to buy PRIDE. He promoted two PRIDE events at the Thomas & Mack Center in Vegas. During this time frame, UFC was negotiating with Sakakibara and got the PRIDE assets despite the two PRIDE Vegas events doing decent business.
- Jamie Pollack: UFC point man who moved to Japan after the PRIDE asset sale deal to try to run PRIDE under Zuffa leadership. He encountered nothing but hostility and found himself back in the States in short order. His name is historically important because Zuffa eventually closed down the PRIDE offices with signs telling employees to clean out their desks immediately. This unfairly/fairly played right into the Japanese media stereotype that UFC was never serious about running PRIDE and that the evil gaijin had killed the home promotion.