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Monday mayhem: Thoughts on Shukan Gendai article

By Zach Arnold | April 2, 2007

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By Zach Arnold
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Printable version over at BoxingScene.com

First, if you haven’t listened to the brand new edition of FOR, go listen. It is an entertaining show that should fly by for 2 hours when you hear it. Everyone did great on the show.

Second, make sure to read the latest Shukan Gendai article about UFC’s purchase of PRIDE assets from DSE. This includes all of our MMA industry readers (especially in America). Take five minutes and read the translated article.

Then come back here in full-page view mode and read my thoughts on what the article’s implications are.

Thoughts on Shukan Gendai’s article about PRIDE, Kiyohara, and Fuji TV

So, to review, let’s look at the key summary points from the Shukan Gendai article today about DSE, PRIDE, and UFC:

  1. Mr. I (Ishizaka) sold the PRIDE assets to Zuffa for an estimated $12-13 million USD.
  2. Gendai claims that the Kanagawa police will be watching this financial transaction as they expect this money to flow to the boryokudan (yakuza).
  3. There is still an outstanding arrest warrant for Mr. I.
  4. Gendai emphasizes their claims that Sakakibara and Mr. I were present when criminal incidents occurred (implying that if Ishizaka gets arrested, Sakakibara could as well).
  5. Gendai implies that Mr. I (Ishizaka) provided and paid for Fuji TV producer Kunio Kiyohara’s luxury mansion apartment (in the same complex as where Mr. I lives and purchased on the same day as his apartment was purchased according to real estate title records).

I’ve argued in various past site postings about why I didn’t think Zuffa’s PRIDE asset purchase from DSE was a good business move. There are a laundry list of reasons to choose from for arguing against the transaction (potentially questionable fighter contracts, no gaijin fight boss achieving long-term Japanese success since the 1950s, a monopoly on the MMA business, stretching out human resources for UFC, etc.) All of them, in my opinion, are perfectly valid criticisms. However, the most valid criticism against the deal is one that I have made long before the transaction between Dream Stage Entertainment and Zuffa ever took place.

A police investigation.

Whether you believe or do not believe the contents of the Shukan Gendai articles that made allegations about PRIDE’s supposed ties to the yakuza, one thing that has been consistent is that there has been an open police investigation with the Kanagawa Kenkei (police) in regards to a complaint that admitted yakuza fixer Seiya Kawamata made against DSE. He claimed that he was threatened by DSE management (he labeled management as Sakakibara, ‘virtual owner’ Mr. I aka Ishizaka aka Kim-Dok Soo, and his former yakuza henchmen who he claimed turned on him and sided with DSE). The police arrested Kawamata’s former yakuza henchmen in February of 2006, only to release them a few weeks later due to lack of evidence. The lack of evidence was based on the police not being able to find one man – the man who Kawamata labeled as Ishizaka.

Shukan Gendai claimed that Ishizaka didn’t return to Japan when he got wind of an arrest warrant being issued for him. Therefore, the Kanagawa police have been supposedly looking for ways to trace his whereabouts. What better way to do that than through financial transactions.

If you believe (and I am using as a hypothetical) the claims that Shukan Gendai made against DSE management last year, then you might believe that Nobuyuki Sakakibara is a ‘front man’ for this virtual owner. In a hypothetical setting with these circumstances, it would likely make sense that Lorenzo Fertitta (Zuffa) would pay Sakakibara and DSE directly (whatever cash amount it may be) for the rights to the PRIDE assets.

Let’s bring in Gendai’s claims in their new article today.

They claim that the Kanagawa Police are excited about the prospects of being able to trace this payment and seeing where the money goes. This is the argument I made last January (in reasoning as to why Zuffa wouldn’t pull the trigger on such a deal).

If Shukan Gendai’s claims are true and Nobuyuki Sakakibara is backed by a yakuza man named Mr. I (Ishizaka), then there might be reason for the Kanagawa police to be interested in where money is flowing, correct? If the answer to this question is yes, then let’s take the next hypothetical step forward. What if the Kanagawa Police are able to trace the transaction money to the mystery man (Mr. I) and/or follow Sakakibara around with the cash only to find something suspicious happening? In this hypothetical scenario, there certainly could be a chance that the Kanagawa police would be interested in following the money and perhaps making an arrest (or two or more).

How would it look to everyone if someone associated with DSE was arrested by Japanese authorities? Let’s cut to the chase… How would Zuffa look if the Kanagawa police trace the transaction money and arrest someone in a criminal probe?

How would you explain this hypothetical scenario to the Nevada Gaming Commission?

Obviously, one question that I would present to burst the ‘transaction leading to an arrest’ hypothetical would be to bring up the fact that DSE has been running shows since losing their Fuji TV contract and no one has been arrested to this point.

The scenario I presented up above is obviously discussed by Shukan Gendai in their new article today. Let’s focus on another element on the Gendai article.

It is becoming clear that Gendai is going to try to establish more links between former Fuji TV (and PRIDE) producer Kunio Kiyohara with the mystery man Mr. I (Ishizaka – who Gendai says has an outstanding arrest warrant out on him). Gendai’s multi-month negative campaign brought down DSE & Nobuyuki Sakakibara. Kiyohara was implicated in the scandal as well. It’s obvious that Gendai believes that the more pressure they can exert on Kiyohara, the less likely Fuji TV or other free-to-air TV networks will air PRIDE on Japanese television. If things progress and the PRIDE brand manages to make it to network TV, I would fully expect Gendai to ramp up a major negative campaign against Kiyohara, the TV network airing the show, and also against UFC big time.

None of this is the kind of press coverage that Lorenzo Fertitta and Dana White want to deal with in the Japanese marketplace.

Other news & notes

Nikkan Sports quotes Nobuhiko Takada as saying that PRIDE is aiming to get a Japanese version of The Ultimate Fighter on television, with the desire of creating new stars for PRIDE under UFC control (using a “Japanese Dream” theme). Full Japanese article text here.

The updated PRIDE 4/8 Saitama Super Arena event card line-up (the last PRIDE event promoted under the DSE banner):

From YouTube, we link to the following (Frank Trigg vs. Robbie Lawler from 3/31 in Hawaii):

Onto today’s headlines.

  1. Komikazee: A candid response to Floyd Mayweather Jr. ripping MMA
  2. The Houston Chronicle: Kenny Florian ready for comeback
  3. EMediaWire (PR): Ray Mercer responds to Kimbo Slice in interview
  4. The Versus Network: Upcoming WEC TV show schedule
  5. The Salem Statesman Journal: Hispanic community leaders riled by fight title ‘Cinco de Mayhem’ (activists going after Matt Lindland)
  6. MMA California: Gladiator Challenge – Chaos at Kezar Pavilion event results
  7. MMA HQ: Floyd Mayweather Jr. not an MMA fan
  8. Radio (Eddie Goldman): Interview with Showtime’s Ken Hershman
  9. The Chronicle Herald: Halifax’s Roger Hollett on a roll heading into next cage fight

Topics: All Topics, Boxing, Canada, IFL, Japan, Media, MMA, PRIDE, UFC, Yakuza, Zach Arnold | No Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

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