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« | Home | »

Wednesday headlines: Yakuza mania and PRIDE news

By Zach Arnold | April 17, 2007

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By Zach Arnold

Roger Gracie vs. Ricardo Arona announced for ADCC 2007.

Frank Trigg states that he will unlikely be associated with the ‘new’ PRIDE.

Choi Hong-Man has been booked against Mike Malone for K-1’s 4/28 Neal Blaisdell Arena show in Honolulu.

A new release of the NHB MMA simulator.

In Japan, the top story right now is the shooting death of Nagasaki mayor Itcho Ito, who was killed by a top yakuza boss affiliated with a group aligned to Yamaguchi-gumi.

My first reaction to this story was to flashback to the article I wrote on February 18th about what is happening in Japan right now. Yakuza-related problems are starting to reach critical mass in Japan and you certainly can see those problems being displayed in the Japanese fight game right now.

Which is why I was appalled when I saw this sentiment online in regards to the alleged yakuza involvement in PRIDE:

VV: “I made the comment during the show that I’ve never been to Japan, I’ve never lived there and I obviously don’t know that much about it but from what I understand, people don’t live in day-to-day fear of the yakuza. They know it’s out there and if they don’t bother them, they won’t be bothered in return.”

There is a reason that Japanese people cared about the yakuza allegations made by Shukan Gendai. As I alluded to on the latest edition of FOR, the reason the story got so much traction is because DSE Inc. was being accused by Gendai as being a yakuza dummy company — essentially a front for the mob. No fight company in the modern history of the Japanese fight game had been labeled a pure yakuza front company. The police (particularly the Tokyo Metropolitan anti-yakuza task force) are facing enormous challenges right now in their battle against organized crime, and Gendai’s negative campaign against PRIDE struck a real societal nerve. It certainly influenced the way Fuji TV looked at PRIDE and much like the Don Imus controversy, once sponsors started getting angry and Fuji TV had to answer to shareholders, the network’s deal with PRIDE was finished.

The story with PRIDE and Shukan Gendai is really a microcosm of a larger problem that Japanese society is facing today with yakuza criminals becoming more and more violent in turf wars and business dealings.

Internet radio

Fellow blogger Luke addresses a big problem that is festering for podcasters — music copyrights. More specifically, the rising fees to play songs on podcasts. Obviously, this is an issue that we – and everyone with a show – faces. Right now, the only real solution suggested to me has been to try to strike up deals with bands who are on social networking sites (like MySpace) and try to cut deals with them — songs in exchange for advertising. We have done this before with Retaliate and I hope we can get more music from them shortly for our shows.

The public domain avenue, as I found out, is apparently a very expensive one. I’m referring to the kind of public domain songs that were used by WCW and on ESPN’s SportsCenter. The price tags for those songs apparently went into the thousands of dollars. I know that some have suggested using music licensed by Creative Commons. That might be a good avenue to take.

UFC’s plan to keep competition out?

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when Zuffa LLC made their play to purchase the PRIDE assets from DSE, they obviously viewed (in my opinion) buying PRIDE as a way to keep more competitors out of the MMA business by owning their rival. When Zuffa bought out WEC, they made a deal with The Versus Network (owned by Comcast) to get WEC programming on the network. This, in essence, forced the IFL’s hand and they ended up with the MyNetwork TV deal. On Tuesday, Dana White said that he expects to get PRIDE on American TV. This would, of course, mean that Zuffa would have three products on at least three different cable outlets.

Good luck on the Japanese TV deal, though.

Onto today’s media headlines.

  1. Five Ounces of Pain: Dana White talks about Fedor
  2. Komikazee: Dana vs. Tito – Bad Blood turned rancid
  3. Mad Squabbles: Russian Journalism (this is a great article on how the BodogFight show was covered in Russia)
  4. MMA Insider: Richard Steele and others join the MMA fray
  5. The Canadian Press: UFC joins forces with HBO as MMA popularity grows
  6. Businesswire (PR): ProElite.com and MMAMix.com unite
  7. Fox Sports: Jamal Patterson does job in workmanlike manner
  8. UFC HP: Mirko Cro Cop – the biggest year of his life
  9. UFC Mania: Dana White – no UFC fighters in PRIDE 2007 LWGP
  10. MMA California: Last Man Standing submission tournament in Merced
  11. The Republican (MA): Gabriel Gonzaga fights for Ultimate upset
  12. Jordan Breen: Okami, Uematsu, Amazon and Joshi stars bound for ADCC Worlds
  13. Mac Danzig: When to say ‘when’

Topics: Japan, K-1, Media, MMA, PRIDE, Pro Elite, UFC, UK, Yakuza, Zach Arnold | 36 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

36 Responses to “Wednesday headlines: Yakuza mania and PRIDE news”

  1. Jwebb says:

    You know reading this just made it clear to me how little you know about Japan. Quit trying to make yourself sound like an anthropologist. Stick to posting links about fighting. That’s what you do best.

  2. Allen says:

    Agree with the above poster. As someone who speaks the language, and has been to the country many times, I can safely say you know very, very little about Japan, and how things work there.

  3. Zach Arnold says:

    I’m so glad you made an appearance here.

    Let’s take a look at your past comments on this site:

    http://www.fightopinion.com/2007/04/02/good-cop-bad-cop-2/#comment-22179

    Nobody cares about the shukan gendai in japan.

    http://www.fightopinion.com/2006/12/06/thursday-media-notes-2/#comment-12035

    On PRIDE’s survival:

    THey might not have a tv deal in japan but signing the big korean means massive ppv buys in korea

    http://www.fightopinion.com/2006/11/12/quick-ifl-pride-thoughts/#comment-11390

    On Sakakibara’s claim that PRIDE would air on TV-Asahi for NYE 2006:

    Its still over a moth away. Things may change.

    In the end networks will not want to air doraemon and punt to K-1 and enka.

    http://www.fightopinion.com/2006/11/07/nhb-news-pride-nye-show-not-on-free-tv/#comment-11173

    On Gendai’s negative campaign and PRIDE on shaky ground:

    Hell I am still waiting for pride to go under and the execs to get arrested like you said was going to happen months ago.

    http://www.fightopinion.com/2006/11/07/nhb-news-pride-nye-show-not-on-free-tv/#comment-11208

    My problem is that your report from these tabloids and blogs like they are real news. You also make it sound like these things are MAJOR news in japan. When in fact, most people in japan don’t know or care. The only people that do are internet savvy mma fans.

    http://www.fightopinion.com/2006/06/13/aera-playboy-and-gendai-talk-about-fuji-tv-dse/#comment-3476

    Yeah, more tabloids…

    yawn.

  4. Zach Arnold says:

    So we have two commenters who are indicating the yakuza are not a problem in Japan.

    Which is why the police have only been briefing the Sumo Association and the Japan Boxing Commission on how to keep them out of their affairs. OK. 🙂

  5. Zack says:

    This is where someone says:

    PWN3D

  6. Jordan Breen says:

    Zach Arnold KO1.

  7. Rob says:

    Living in Japan, yeah, the murder of Nagasaki’s mayor is major news, but it’s not really being shown as being indicative of any general increase in Yakuza related violence. I mean, one of the articles you linked to pointed out the record low number of shootings last year. This guy is affiliated with Yamaguchi-gumi, which explains the gun, but what seems to be getting the push media wise is the absurd fact that this seems to be about this knucklehead not getting compensated for damage done to his car by a pothole. Craziness.

    It’s been my, limited, experience that Yakuza are ubiquitous here in Japan. A bar/club owner I worked for told me that, basically, to get both his business license and rent space in his building, he had to meet with and pass a “Yakuza” review. And that pretty much applied to everybody in the building. Anything construction or building ownership/rental related is pretty much ALL Yakuza. Just the way it is…

    The taboo, for all things Japanese [honne/tatemae/blahblahblah], isn’t whether it’s actually going on, but if you talk about it… which the mags started to do with Pride.

  8. Zach Arnold says:

    Rob – the big issue that stayed on the periphery in regards to PRIDE was a larger issue that has been talked about in the media, which are the turf wars coming with Yamaguchi-gumi making a move into Tokyo. This has created all-out war with the local gangs there (Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai), which has resulted in violence.

    The Japanese fight game is naturally a place where the yakuza gravitate towards, since entertainment is dominated by them almost as much as construction.

  9. chis says:

    And back at the UFC.

  10. Allen says:

    “Jordan Breen Says:
    April 17th, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Zach Arnold KO1.”

    Oh yippy, the resident smarmy guy from sherdog throws in his tragically hip 2 cents.

    Oh, and what Rob said, plus they do this yak finger shaking every few years to keep up appearances. Oh, and yes, you do need to lay off the tabloids Zach.

  11. white ninja says:

    it just so great that we have well known and respected japanologists Jwebb and Allen (and Rob) around to tell us what is “really” happening in Japan and what japanese people “really” think

    boys, go back to slurping your ramen and reading the personals in metropolis and leave your broad and totally wrong generalisations at your keyboards – you aint fooling anybody

  12. 45 Huddle says:

    1. The music thing stinks. It is effecting the entire Podcast Community.

    2. I can blame Pride for not including Trigg for the new Pride. He really isn’t that good, and comes across as being full of himself on the telecast. Which is about the worst quality for that position.

    3. Is K-1 stupid? They want to fill up a 100,000 seat stadium, and they are having one of their main event fights competing within 35 of the event. If he gets KO’d, CA won’t let him compete so quickly. Or he could get injured….

  13. Liger05 says:

    Zach Arnold has some haters

  14. Rob says:

    Thanks Zach 🙂 The irony of guy called “white ninja” telling me to get a clue breaks the irony meter a little bit. As far as what Japan “really” thinks, I’m just relaying what’s been my experience living in Japan, and say, for example, what the Japanese folks I talked to, gosh, THIS MORNING were goodly enough to share with me.

    Yeah, absolutely the “turf wars” generate some heat, it’s just most of that is yakuza V yakuza. The only time there’s ever anything kicked up is when civilians are injured. Otherwise, yakuza is just business as usual. I mean, I live in a smallish city of about 60,000 and it’s common knowledge the local boxing gym is yakuza’d up [it’s where former featherweight champ Takashi Koshimoto trained], the local office is known to the public, with signs and everything and you run into ’em around town occasion. Out drinking, a buddy of mine had a drunk Yakuza want to compare tattoos.

    Here’s an interesting thought I hadn’t considered, what with all the turf and infighting, I wonder if the impetus for the magazine articles was one gumi leveraging another?

  15. Zach Arnold says:

    I’ve had various people throw various theories at me (the one most popular is that K-1 was behind the articles).

    Personally… I don’t think you can nail down one specific backer or source for the articles. For Gendai, it was a story that created the perfect storm. It gave them a juicy target (Fuji TV) and they nailed it. The timing couldn’t have been any better, either – stockholders meeting in June, Kiyohara the producer (based on the fact that he’s the son of the President of Sankei Shimbun).

    Too many factors made it a story they couldn’t pass up. Strangely, the English MMA media passed most of it up. 🙂

    Re: the boxing gym you’re referring to… out in the Fukuoka area, right? It seems that the further away you move from Tokyo (the capital), the more prevalent the gang control is. The reason the yakuza love the fight game so much (pro-wrestling, MMA) is that it’s almost a walking recruitment sign to get more members to sign up, since they hang out with the boys (fighters) and often get involve in the jimushos (talent agencies).

  16. Rob says:

    Yep, just north of Fukuoka – Fukuma/Fukutsu…

  17. Grape Knee High says:

    “It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that when Zuffa LLC made their play to purchase the PRIDE assets from DSE, they obviously viewed (in my opinion) buying PRIDE as a way to keep more competitors out of the MMA business by owning their rival.”

    Funny, then, that all you were harping on at the time of the sale announcement just a few weeks back was that you didn’t understand why Zuffa would buy PRIDE at all since the fighter contracts, the video library and the brand were basically worthless.

    I guess it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to take other people’s thoughts and present them as your own.

  18. Grape Knee High says:

    Re: Kiyohara

    I have read elsewhere that Kiyohara has also worked production for K-1 shows. If this it true, why has K-1 not also been implicated in this entire Gendai smear campaign?

  19. DarthMolen says:

    Don’t make me start singing the lion king song… “Can you feel the love tonight.”

    It will hurt your eardrums and embarrass you to boot.

  20. Zach Arnold says:

    Funny, then, that all you were harping on at the time of the sale announcement just a few weeks back was that you didn’t understand why Zuffa would buy PRIDE at all since the fighter contracts, the video library and the brand were basically worthless.

    Nothing has changed. The library is not worth much value in the states. The fighter contracts are shaky — at best. And the PRIDE brand has a negative stigma to it. Plus, you have Japanese media writers who are starting to apply the ‘evil gaijin’ angle to the deal in their articles.

    It was a pure ego move by Zuffa to purchase the PRIDE assets. And it’s in their self-interest to try to prop it up, and if they get it on US cable TV, to keep further rivals off of potential networks.

    Do I think Zuffa will be able to have long-term success with the ‘new’ PRIDE in Japan? No.

    I have read elsewhere that Kiyohara has also worked production for K-1 shows. If this it true, why has K-1 not also been implicated in this entire Gendai smear campaign?

    Kiyohara was at both K-1 and PRIDE shows when they aired on Fuji TV, but his relationship with K-1 was often rumored to be hot and cold, mostly cold. And it got cold when the Bob Sapp scandal hit last year at the Holland show. He (Kiyohara) was there for that.

    K-1’s shedding few tears for him.

    You called it a ‘smear’ campaign, yet Sakakibara (to my knowledge) hasn’t gotten very far with his criminal complaint against Kodansha. His response is different than the response the Sumo Association produced against Gendai (published by Kodansha) for match-fixing claims.

  21. Grape Knee High says:

    Re: Zuffa

    Zach, I’m not even sure you understood what I said. I was the first to say on this site that Zuffa buying PRIDE was a strategic business play. Not an asset buy, as you kept claiming ad nauseum; you wouldn’t even admit a few weeks ago that the PRIDE sale was anything but an asset sale. Will it work? Who knows. Time will tell. But the point here is that you didn’t recognize the strategic elements of the sale at the time and now you’re trying to claim that you knew it all along.

    Re: Kiyohara

    It is a smear campaign is Kiyohara was associated with both K-1 and PRIDE and somehow only PRIDE gets smeared for this.

  22. Zach did recognize why Zuffa was going to, he just pointed out a dozen reasons why they shouldn’t.

  23. Euthyphro says:

    Hey Fightlinker,

    I’ve really enjoyed your blog so far. Keep it up.

  24. JThue says:

    And now over to CAGE RAGE. No Yakuza in the UK, see. First, another change on the bottom of the CR 21 card for this Saturday:

    “With the unfortunate news that Damien Riccio has had to pull out of his bout with James E. Nicholl, we can once again announce a superb replacement in the shape of the Uzbekistan Brawler, Sunnat Ilyasov…”

    (cagerage.tv)

    Riccio himself was also a replacement, so Ilyasov becomes Nicholl’s third scheduled opponent in this fight. And then…

    http://www.cagerage.tv/nextevents_hardashell.htm

    CR 22 card taking shape, including Sperry, Butterbean, Tedoradze and… HERB~~~~~~~~!!!!!

  25. virol says:

    I have to agree with Grape Knee High. I have believed ever since this Gendai smear campaign started that K-1 was behind it (it even started when Pride was a threat to them for nye shows)

  26. Allen says:

    There has been serious bad blood between Pride, K-1, and Inoki since about sept/nov of 2003, and my understanding is that one of the later two pulled the strings on the Gendai article; which wouldn’t be too difficult since they are a tabloid where many of the writers go under a nondeplume.

  27. Euthyphro says:

    Virol, you should keep in mind that Shukan Gendai is a large, well-known publication in Japan. While it’s not outside the realm of possibility that K-1 pushed the story idea to them, Shukan Gendai has a history of writing exactly this type of expose (albeit not always involving the Yakuza). They’re sort’ve what you would expect if US Weekly and Newsweek had a Japanese love child.

  28. MMA Geek says:

    It was a pure ego move by Zuffa to purchase the PRIDE assets. And it’s in their self-interest to try to prop it up, and if they get it on US cable TV, to keep further rivals off of potential networks.

    Do I think Zuffa will be able to have long-term success with the ‘new’ PRIDE in Japan? No.

    So elevating the sport of MMA for profit/love/legacy is not a factor? Finding out who the best fighter in the world is all lip service? At the end of the day, Dana White and Fertittas Bros spending millions of dollars, fly to Japan and give countless interviews as part of some elborate illusion to tricking people that this isn’t more than something to simply stroke their massive egos.

    I know it real easy to belittle people to make yourself feel good, but the degree to which are willing to portray these fathers, business men and MMA supporters/fans as these evil corporate caricatures (aka Vince McMahon) speaks less about them and volumes about you.

  29. Thanks Euthyphro! I’m trying to update it at least a few times a week with some original talking points. And of course links … always with the links

  30. Zack says:

    “So elevating the sport of MMA for profit/love/legacy is not a factor? Finding out who the best fighter in the world is all lip service?”

    No. Yes. LOL.

  31. white ninja says:

    Rob – didnt know you lived in a small town in fukuoka

    fukuoka as a region is notorisously the most heavily yakuza dominated area in japan. the police recognise that they are weak compared to the yakuza in fukuoka

    so i am not surprised at all at your blaze views on the prevalenace and acceptance of yakuza when it comes from your specific experience

    however, i can tell you that tokyo is not fukuoka – and rightly or wrongly, what we are talking about is all decided in tokyo – and more importantly, people in Tokyo have VERY different opinions and views on the yakuza compared to those in a small town in fukuoka

  32. iain says:

    I heard jordan breen is yakuza.

  33. Jwebb says:

    I live in the heart of tokyo, and work for a large Japanese company.

    I’m still not seeing the Yakuza problem. They in no way have any effect over my daily life. What influence do they have over real major japanese companies (Canon, Toyota, Honda, Sony). That’s right, zero.

    So maybe you are right about the fight world and perhaps that extends small time city works contracts, but I’m not seeing the “critical mass” you are talking about.

  34. white ninja says:

    Jwebb –

    a few months ago, early on a sunday night an old man was stabbed to death outside DSEs office in aoyama (an aoyama dori) over a dispute with yakuza over an apartment in yoyogi. the ceo of a publicly listed real estate company was arrested, together with the head of goto gumi (one of the yakuza groups who are involved with dse) – that central enough for you?

    the fact that you personally are not effected doesnt make the problem any less real. are you personally effected by rape? probably not, doesnt make it any less of a crime

    in relation to influence in major corporations – there are specific laws regarding sokaiya that deal with this, and yes the problem is very real. in the last few years, yakuza have been involved in physical attacks and murders on politicians, journalists, domestic and foreign businessmen

    whether you personally see the critical mass or not is very clear statement concerning the depth of your understanding of japan

  35. Rob says:

    So, to paraphrase white ninja – “Even though I was mocking, snarky and dismissive before, now that I know where you live in Japan, let me explain why you are still wrong. See, if you disagree with my point, you’re a know-it-all japanologist who should go back to slurping ramen, and if you agree then you really and truly understand Japan.”

    Look, reasonable people can disagree about the extent of the influence and concern about the Yakuza in Japan. Insulting folks or throwing around poorly contrived rape analogies, like in the case of jwebb, is just ridiculous.

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