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« | Home | »

A miserable Winter for non-UFC Japanese MMA power brokers

By Zach Arnold | February 29, 2012

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It’s been a miserable two weeks, and frankly full Winter, for the (formerly) major power brokers in the Japanese MMA scene.

First, Spike TV aired edited portions of an interview with former Fedor Emelianenko & Mirko Cro Cop agent Miro Mijatovic about the yakuza scandal that destroyed PRIDE.

(Read our primer here for a full summary of the key players in the story.)

The segment was watched by over 500,000 viewers on Spike TV and shocked people in certain Japanese circles. You won’t hear about that much at all, though, because no one is publicly willing to talking about it. A source described the still-taboo topic as ‘too hot to handle’ — even five years after the death of PRIDE. Dan Herbertson, who conducted the video interview with Miro, posted the following on Twitter:

I e-mailed the producers at Spike to get the Miro & PRIDE segments fixed and hopefully get the [GeoBlock] removed. I know that quite a few members of the media in Japan have seen the MMA Uncensored segment now but no one will comment. Spike [is] aware of the issue with the Miro & PRIDE videos and are already working to restore them. Yakuza hackers maybe?

Spike TV’s MMA Uncensored program site posted three separate clips of their extended interview with Miro. There is still general disbelief about the claims made during the interview despite the fact that none of the accused parties ever filed defamation lawsuits or criminal complaints in Japan against the accusers.

Second, take a look at this DMCA complaint that was filed, resulting in this boilerplate notice. Take one look at who sent out the claim.

I will eventually view all of the audio/video of the extended interview and will make every effort possible to transcribe what was said. I’m not about to exit quietly on this front.

Speaking of exiting quietly, have you heard anything about DREAM these days? Since the New Year’s Eve event at Saitama Super Arena headlined by Fedor Emelianenko vs. Satoshi Ishii, it has been practically silent on the DREAM front outside of some web site updates & the DREAM Twitter account greeting the UFC Japan Twitter account. With Shinya Aoki booked in Bellator & both Tatsuya Kawajiri and Lenne Hardt booked for One FC, the Real Entertainment roster of fighters now resembles more of a booking agency than a singular promotional entity. It’s safe to say that DREAM is currently in hibernation. PR/front man Sasahara says that DREAM will release an event schedule in the next week or two, but that doesn’t change the long-term facts on the ground. What cards do they have in the hole to do anything substantive?

I can’t wait for people online to start up the “Fedor is a promotional killer” talk.

This was not what I think the natives had in mind in 2012 when UFC Japan arrived at Saitama Super Arena and basically splattered the remains of the old players who want to make a come back into the scene.

I can personally assure you that the old cast of characters that got pushed to the sideline for various reasons all want back in the Japanese fight game. The problem is that they either are blocked off from getting back on broadcast television or they have made such powerful enemies that they are (temporarily) on the run. I couldn’t write a better ending to this script if I had made one up.

As for any reported attempts to sabotage Spike for the interview with Miro — quite revealing that old wounds never really heal.

Game on.

(I talked about the Spike TV/PRIDE segment during my 40-minute radio interview with Jack Encarnacao on Sherdog Rewind last Sunday night. During the interview, I revealed a decade-old secret that few people knew about in regards to the NYE 2003 MMA wars in Japan.)

Topics: Japan, MMA, Media, PRIDE, Zach Arnold | 20 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

20 Responses to “A miserable Winter for non-UFC Japanese MMA power brokers”

  1. The Gaijin says:

    What is the decade old secret!?! Shouldn’t you do a write-up on this? Or at least a transcript! :)

    For the benefit of the lazy (and I’m sure you want people to listen to the broadcast) – whereabouts in the interview is this bombshell?

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    1) The entire point of putting MMA Uncensored Live on Thursday at 11pm is that they are trying to convert their TNA fans into MMA fans. I think those fans are already aware of MMA, so it’s rather pointless. 500,000 is about 1/3rd of the audience TNA pulls in. Plus, the show was pathetically bad. It made HDNet’s Inside MMA look legendary by comparison.

    2) DREAM put on 4 shows in each of the last 2 years. They didn’t put on their first show of 2011 until May 29th. The problem is that they have been completely silent without even a rumor of an upcoming show.

    3) The SpikeTV show was supposed to be MMA Junkie LIVE. Junkie must be extremely butt hurt that they lost out, because they have not posted one reminder or ratings information on the show. And Junkie will post just about anything when it comes to MMA programming news.

    4) “I can personally assure you that the old cast of characters that got pushed to the sideline for various reasons all want back in the Japanese fight game. The problem is that they either are blocked off from getting back on broadcast television or they have made such powerful enemies that they are (temporarily) on the run. I couldn’t write a better ending to this script if I had made one up.”

    The other problem is TALENT. There is no talent for them to build stars with. Japan has nobody that the casual fans care about. Even if there was somebody who had not burned their bridges and had a TV deal…. What could they really do with it?

    5) Siyar Bahadurzada is having issues with Golden Glory as well. Claimed there was “trust issues”. And Golden Glory is getting sue happy right now. Going after Overeem and K-1. They have sort of shown themselves to be the new M-1.

    • Steve4192 says:

      “5) Siyar Bahadurzada is having issues with Golden Glory”

      Dion Staring has also left. It seems pretty clear that the fighters in the Golden Glory stable are starting to open their eyes. They days of GG being able to take one-third of a fighter’s income are coming to an end.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        And rightfully so. There is no reason for a fighter to be spending more then 5% to 15% of his pay MAXIMUM to get all of the management and training they need.

        I’m no lawyer, but it looks like in the case of Siyar and Alistair…. That GG breached the contract when they didn’t pay, and therefore don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    375,000 PPV Buys for UFC 144. A complete shocker. Was it FOX/FX? Edgar being a star? Rampage? Who knows, but if this PPV does that good, it’s a good sign for some of the blockbusters they have coming up….

  4. Zach Arnold says:

    375,000 PPV Buys for UFC 144. A complete shocker. Was it FOX/FX? Edgar being a star? Rampage? Who knows, but if this PPV does that good, it’s a good sign for some of the blockbusters they have coming up….

    I am completely unshocked by this number. Why? Our web traffic was definitely picking up momentum, our profiles on FB/Twitter the same, so on and so forth.

    I don’t know how much the fact the show being in Japan helped, but clearly there was a curiosity. I doubt the Spike piece profiling UFC Japan helped any, but it didn’t hurt.

    Also, take note that UFC did a lot of different kinds of media ad buys for the show. I saw less cable/satellite ads and more radio ads on Jim Rome & other programs. They clearly pushed the right buttons here.

    • Chuck says:

      375k considered a huge number? Isn’t that about the norm? No way is it a bad number, but why is it considered that great of a number? I predicted about 350-400k for this show.

      • edub says:

        That’s kinda what I thought when I read the number, and came here and saw the initial comment. Its a little bit higher then what i expected, but no where close to huge.

  5. RST says:

    ““Fedor is a promotional killer””

    The first time thats just jealousy.

    The second time thats just a coincidence.

    The third time thats just a run of bad luck.

    But the fourth, fifth, and sixth times it starts to look kinda peculiar.

    Some people are just a Jinx man.

    But I think its obvious that the Jinx is not Fedors alone more then Fedor as a proxy for the curse of M1.

    “…when UFC Japan arrived at Saitama Super Arena and basically splattered the remains of the old players…”

    Its all too convoluted for me, but you really dont think that it would be better to let all the old connections and old players get out of the way and let someone new (I dont mean UFC, I mean someone Japanese) without all the baggage give JMMA a fresh try?

    It just seems like these same guys who “want back into the scene” just cant get up to speed and keep making the same mistakes.

    And/or just have to much bad connections and history.

    A new generation like Rock and Roll.

    The Stones were the best in their time.
    Now after they’ve given everything that they had, they dont have anymore.
    Thats the nature of things.

    So now its someone else’s turn.

    • RST says:

      You know what I would do if I wanted to start a new JMMA promotion.

      One thing that JMMA can do that UFC cant, is the over the top characters.

      UFC will put of with a bit of that, but doesn’t want to look like pro-rasslin.
      They want to generally be taken seriously like boxing.

      Whereas JMMA doesn’t mind pro-rasslin goofyness.
      They actually seem to prefer over the top spectacle.

      My idea would be that since a new promotion cant start out affording the top talent available, that they should take the talent they can afford and combine them with the characters of pro-rasslin.

      Everybody gets a shtick!
      Costumes, dancers and all that.

      But I would keep it MMA by not doing any works, just real fighting.

      Thats how Apple came back.

      They’re under powered and over priced, but they’ve got Zazz and people want it.

      • Chuck says:

        The problem with your pro wrestling-ish idea is that many fighters just aren’t charismatic. Many pro wrestling schools teach wrestlers how to talk, how to use body language, facial expressions, how to favor one side of the ring over the others (for taped events that have a “hard camera”. You’ll know what I am talking about if you watch WWE or TNA), etc. Of course MMA/BJJ/other legit fighting schools aren’t going to teach that sort of thing. For every Sakuraba (who was a pro wrestler) or Rampage type, you will get about fifty Jon Fitch’s. Most people don’t have a natural flair to them.

        “Everybody gets a shtick!
        Costumes, dancers and all that.”

        That sounds very Vince Russo-esque. I don’t like Russo-esque anything. Also sounds very Pro Wrestling HUSTLE-esque. Hustle (ran by DSE years ago) was a very silly pro wrestling promotion in Japan.

        • RST says:

          “…Most people don’t have a natural flair…”

          My point would be for the “Flair” to be in the hands, and fairly owned by the promotion.

          They could bring in dressmakers, character writers, choreographers for the dancers, etc…

          And if the fighter moved on, then Tiger mask #2!

          Any favoritism could be done through matchmaking, as it was always done, and the chips move on!

        • RST says:

          “how to use body language, facial expressions, how to favor one side of the ring over the others (for taped events that have a “hard camera”.”

          Thats true!

          My idea is to discard that!

          Only adopting the Characters!

          The characters that all seem like us, or what we want to be.

      • otusa says:

        The Yakuza infiltrates any type of fight promotion in Japan. Sumo, Pro Wrestling, kickboxing and MMA are not attractive to legit business and TV networks in Japan. If you have legit cash, why invest in a new promotion in Japan? It is truly sad.

      • p. says:

        “But I would keep it MMA by not doing any works, just real fighting.”

        One problem with this is that the more pro-wrestling inspired a promotion is, the more people are going to accuse them of or assume they do works.

        Furthermore, with wrestling not doing very well in Japan nowadays either, it probably wouldn’t be that much of draw anyway.

        I think the only thing that can be done to possibly rejuvenate mainstream interest in Japan is if the smaller promotions like Shooto and DEEP who are still going strong and putting on many events could feed more fighters to the UFC. A problem is that while those organizations are still producing great fighters and potential great fighters, according to people like Dan Herbertson, there are no top class gyms in Japan anymore. There is nowhere these guys can get the type of training you can get in the US with quality facilities, a cage, top class trainers in every discipline and so on. There’s no sponsors who can allow fighters to train full time. They go to their local dojo when they are not working and train like they always have because there are no opportunities to train like an elite athlete like there are in the US.

        Shooto has a fantastic and highly developed amateur program, and if these guys could train at great gyms in the process they would have a great basis for becoming top athletes.

        If the UFC want more Japanese guys on the roster (which they may or may not care about), they need to start signing guys from these organizations and build them on undercards for a while, not stick them on main cards right away. They need to get used to the cage, to fighting in the markedly different atmosphere of non-Japanese audiences, get used to fight wrestlers and get some opportunities to visit the top US/Canadian camps.

        Likewise, any Japanese organization who wants to be able to feed fighters to the UFC would need to work with second tier American promotions as well so their fighters can get experience there.

        I know some heavy names in Shooto like Noburo Asahi have suggested that preparing fighters for the big shows abroad is exactly what they need to do to keep the sport from becoming stagnant in Japan.

        People like Zach Arnold has pointed out that just having some Japanese guys become successful abroad alone won’t be able to sway the Japanese audience unless those guys became stars in Japan first, but even so I think that would be the most important first step. They need guys like Yushin Okami to make some money and fight quality opponents and train in the US so they can bring the needed skills, experience and funds back home and start up gyms, bring over instructors and so forth.

        Whatever it takes to get the Japanese mainstream audience interested in MMA again, I don’t think it’s going to happen until there is a solid foundation to build international class fighters on so they are prepared if and when the time comes.

    • The Gaijin says:

      “Fedor is a promotional killer” is a talking point that only the most unintelligent mma pundit/fan (or ardent Fedor basher) could try to run with.

      We’ve talked time and again about the reasons that PRIDE died, nothing to do with Fedor and everything to do with the pervasive existence and involvement of the yakuza in Japanese combat sport. And if DREAM were to fold it would have absolutely nothing to do with him either. Frankly, M-1 isn’t the cause of any of these organization’s demise either.

      The rest of these orgs failed for one reason – and it wasn’t because of Fedor (remember correlation is not causation) – they were money marks of the highest order. If anything, the take home point of all of this should be that M-1 is an unscrupulous organization that was very adept at sniffing out money marks and rubes and exacting the greatest return possible while the trough was open. They should absolutely be considered vultures and hyenas, but people that spout off about Fedor being the downfall of organizations don’t understand the fundamentals of business…one fighter’s contract never killed an mma organization, but his contract was usually a perfect illustration of the problem with an organization’s business.

      • Steve4192 says:

        “We’ve talked time and again about the reasons that PRIDE died, nothing to do with Fedor and everything to do with the pervasive existence and involvement of the yakuza in Japanese combat sport”

        I agree that ‘Fedor the promotion killer’ talk is mostly poppycock, but he was right at the center of the Pride Yakuza debacle. While I don’t blame him for looking out for his own best interests, to say that he had nothing to do with Pride’s demise is wrong.

        The rest of the dead promotions in his wake were mostly money marks who thought that ’sign Fedor … profit’ was a legit business plan and quickly discovered otherwise. Fedor did his job in the ring/cage, but his salary far outstripped his ability to generate revenue. Those money marks would most likely have gone out of business with or without Fedor, so it is hard to blame him for those failures.

        • The Gaijin says:

          “I agree that ‘Fedor the promotion killer’ talk is mostly poppycock, but he was right at the center of the Pride Yakuza debacle. While I don’t blame him for looking out for his own best interests, to say that he had nothing to do with Pride’s demise is wrong.”

          That’s really no different than him being the headliner or big contract in a money market organization though. If it wasn’t him the yakuza was fighting over, it would have been someone else – he just happened to be the big name gaijin star at the time…the yakuza was always going to be the organization’s downfall.

        • The Gaijin says:

          *money mark

    • Jason Harris says:

      I think it’s more that Fedor is sort of the big name that is willing to sell to any random mom and pop show, and has the sales people out there convincing them it’ll save their failing MMA org.

      You get the M-1 boys saying “Fedor brings in gajillions of fans!” and desperate promoters who need attention, they pay him way too much and the fans never show up. They probably would have failed either way, the M-1 guys just accelerated the depletion of their cash reserves.

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