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Thursday trash talk: Proxy wars in Japan

By Zach Arnold | April 25, 2007

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By Zach Arnold

Gryphon has more details on Motoichiro Takasu’s story about Ken Imai causing a scene at the BodogFight 4/14 Russia event.

The IFL stock jumped up nearly 70 cents/share to close at $4.59. Is there some good financial news about the IFL that hasn’t been said publicly? And what is this?

Gabe Ruediger shares his true inner feelings… without getting a colonic.

Next, check out Andy Wang’s response to Gabe’s online posting:


You need to call me, man. We were friends before the show, but man, come on. You put a lot of us in bad positions…we missed practice time, we were one training partner short while you were out doing your thing, the van rides were constant headaches and distractions.

Remember that talk we had at the house…come on man, learn from all this, don’t pass ALL the blame on to others or call them morons for going off what they see each week on TV. Yeah, they edited all of us to a certain degree, but some of the things you did, you put us on the spot man.

I don’t want to get into it here because I respect you more than that, but don’t go out like that, putting all the blame on the editors or you just wanting to get TV time so pulled some stunts…your moves had an impact on all of us.


Welcome to Japan, Zuffa

Time for some insider hardball here today, but I think you will enjoy this news item. A few days ago, an announcement was made that Hustle (which Nobuyuki Sakakibara promoted under DSE) would be changed to Hustle Entertainment under that corporate name. The most curious part of this announcement is that former Kami no Puroresu magazine editor Noboru Yamaguchi would become the new Hustle Entertainment President.

Why is this curious? Because Yamaguchi used to be part of the brain trust for the ‘old’ Hustle promotion under Sakakibara’s watch. He was contributing to the promotion’s booking, but a couple of years ago a weird story developed. Famous Japanese photographer & writer Jimmy Suzuki wrote a curious blog post around Christmas time a few years ago declaring that Yamaguchi had gone missing. Suzuki indicated in the post that Yamaguchi was in hot water because he opposed the entrance of someone as the new ‘star ace’ of Hustle (which was thought to be Yinling-sama). Yamaguchi, who had close relations to DSE as the Kami no Puroresu magazine editor (and also had merchandising deals with Sakakibara), eventually resurfaced but would soon leave Kami no Puroresu once DSE hit into big problems with the cancelation of their Fuji TV deal.

So it is curious that Yamaguchi would now take over the reigns of the new Hustle Entertainment company. As I’ve clearly stated on this web site and the site’s radio show, I didn’t believe for a second that some members of DSE management and staffers would leave the fight game any time soon. It’s too potentially lucrative of a business and a significant amount of time and effort was placed into building the creations that we saw with Hustle and PRIDE.

Which brings us today to an odd, but intriguing article in Daily Sports newspaper in Japan. The title is New Year’s Eve war! Hustle vs. PRIDE. The article quotes Yamaguchi talking about Hustle Entertainment implementing a three big-show formula yearly (Hustle Aid in June, Hustle Mania in November, and a third show for New Year’s Eve). Remember, New Year’s Eve was a cherished day in the history of K-1 and PRIDE (not so much so for Antonio Inoki, however) in terms of running major shows. The NYE gimmick meant a lot to PRIDE and Sakakibara.

Yamaguchi in the Daily Sports article brings up the idea of Hustle vs. PRIDE as the theme for a New Year’s Eve show in Japan in 2007.

So why is this claim an eye-opener?

A few days after the public announcement at Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo of Zuffa purchasing the PRIDE assets from Dream Stage Entertainment, Dana White did an interview in Daily Sports in which he claimed that he was aiming to run Mirko Cro Cop vs. Fedor for New Year’s Eve in Japan under the shinsei (newborn) PRIDE banner. If Zuffa goes ahead and runs a NYE show under the PRIDE banner in Japan, naturally their main competition was going to be against K-1. Lorenzo Fertitta said that he would keep DSE’s staffers on board for the shinsei (newborn) PRIDE.

However, now a critical question is raised for Zuffa with this new Daily Sports article. Is the ‘new’ PRIDE about to face a proxy war from some members of DSE’s old guard on New Year’s Eve?

On the surface, it makes sense. Hustle is associated with PRIDE in the minds of many Japanese fans. That connection will not be broken any time soon. The fact that Yamaguchi is pushing the PRIDE name as a marketing tool in Japan is intriguing considering that Zuffa is supposed to have the rights to that trademarked name. Furthermore, how will Zuffa respond if UFC promotes a NYE show under the ‘new’ PRIDE banner and they (Zuffa) end up having to compete with not just K-1 but now DSE’s old guard pushing a “Hustle vs. PRIDE” storyline-themed event?

Is this a case of marketplace confusion being created? Or is this a test case to perhaps sabotage the ‘new’ PRIDE name by having the old guard of Hustle push that their show will have the ‘real’ PRIDE stars on it?

It should be fully pointed out that most of the time in Japanese newspaper articles, pro-wrestling people quoted are often trying to push a storyline or agenda — and most of the time it never pans out. So, for the sake of this argument (right here in this update), put aside the Hustle vs. PRIDE message.

Let’s focus on the motive of this.

The fact that one of DSE’s old guard (Noboru Yamaguchi) would come out publicly to declare that Hustle would run on NYE has to be taken as a shot against Zuffa if they run the ‘new’ PRIDE on NYE. For those of you who will argue, “How could a pro-wrestling promotion hurt business for the ‘new’ PRIDE since it’s MMA?”, you will be missing the larger context of this story. Just the idea that Yamaguchi is pushing Hustle vs. PRIDE should say everything about the motives of the old guard from DSE. They are using classic Japanese pro-wrestling 101 promoting tactics here. They (Hustle Entertainment) are positioning themselves here to promote a NYE show in which you can see the ‘real’ stars of PRIDE on NYE while Zuffa’s version of PRIDE is not ‘the same thing’ as you used to see.

The obvious question to ask: Who benefits the most from this proxy war that is about to take place in Japan on NYE?

Onto today’s headlines.

  1. ESPN’s Page 2 (Bill Simmons): Boxing is almost down for the count
  2. The Army Times: Fort Knox, Kentucky soldiers to compete in official Army MMA cage tournament
  3. The News-Enterprise (Kentucky): Fort Knox hosts UFC-style competition
  4. The Newark Advocate (Ohio): USA vs. Canada MMA event coming to Newark
  5. UFC Junkie: Report – fastest growing web site in professional sports
  6. Radio: Komikazee’s MMA Smackdown show #20 (UFC 70 review)
  7. World of MMA: Couture undeterred by Gonzaga
  8. The Republican (MA): Happy return for new star Gabriel Gonzaga
  9. MMA Insider: Binky Jones discusses his upcoming Ring of Combat title fight
  10. The White Online (Rowan University): Underdogs becoming favorites in UFC
  11. MMA Fever: Tank Abbott vs. Gary Turner from Cage Rage 21
  12. The Lake Oswego Review: The Ultimate Comeback (article about Nate Quarry coming back from spinal fusion surgery)
  13. Jordan Breen: Latest news and notes from Japan (including the return of Gong Kakutougi aka GONKAKU)
  14. Emediawire (PR): John Graden presents MMA for the masses (we need a fighter to comment on this one)
  15. The Newark Advocate (Ohio): Newark brings out true fighters for charity
  16. The Sequoyak County Times (Oklahoma): Sallisaw cage fighter Brian Foster wins again
  17. The Santa Fe New Mexican: Sante Fe fighters score in world of extreme martial arts
  18. Mad Squabbles: Save Jon Fitch

Topics: Boxing, IFL, Japan, Media, MMA, PRIDE, Pro-Wrestling, UFC, UK, Zach Arnold | 18 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

18 Responses to “Thursday trash talk: Proxy wars in Japan”

  1. Liger05 says:

    So who actually owns hustle now?

  2. white ninja says:

    according the japanese media, Hustle will be owned by a new company called HUSTLE ENTERTAINMENT

    president of this is Yamaguchi as Zach points out

    what interests me is that DSE staff ran Hustle in the past, and many PRIDE fighters appeared in Hustle – Ogawa, Coleman, Randleman etc.

    You would think that the Fertittas didnt really want Hustle and so it was hived off into Hustle Entertainment – maybe this is Sakakibara’s new job? Owner of Hustle- he is very close with Yamaguchi and so it would make a lot of sense

    the big question is how many ex DSE staff and PRIDE fighters will go to Hustle?

  3. Jordan Breen says:

    Boxing is almost down for the count… except that Manny Pacquiao could convince the entire nation of the Philippines to commit mass suicide, Henry Maske boxing again is front page news in Germany, the UK’s top boxers are major sports celebrities, and so and so forth. Promoters better get out, quick!

  4. Zack says:

    Boxing is almost down for the count? Wasn’t last year the 2nd most successful year ever for boxing PPV?

  5. […] I commend Steve for his excellent write-up here. (Hat tip: Body Shots.) […]

  6. Liger05 says:

    I would love to see Hustle get serious and actually produce proper wrestling. Seeing Kawada sing has no appeal to me at all.

    Will Takada still be involved in Hustle?

    Im sick of this boxing is dead talk. The sport is still very much alive, fighters are still getting paid very well and Major networks are not ditching it either.

  7. Zach Arnold says:

    Yes, Takada will still be involved in Hustle. He was quoted as the ‘owner’ of Hustle in the Daily Sports article (but he is not).

  8. Preach says:

    Jordan, it’s not only Maske. Boxing’s having some sort of Boom right now over here in Germany, even bigger than in the mid-90s with LHW-World Champions like Henry Maske and Dariusz Michalczewski. The Klitschko-Brothers, Valuev, Chagaev always sell at least 20 000 tickets, as did Maske and Axel Schulz (even though that “fight” stunk like a pack of dead jellyfish rotting away). And even the “smaller” champions, such as IBF Middleweight-Champion Arthur Abraham, WBA Intercontinental Champion Sebastian Sylvester and WIBF Flyweight Champion Regina Halmich sell out arenas between 15 and 20 000, as do contenders like Luan Krasniqi, Marco Huck or Sasha Dimitrenko.

    All the big tv-networks (minus Sat.1) are putting on boxing-cards on their programming, most having exclusive contracts to promoters/promotions like Wilfried Sauerland, Universum or Spotlight Boxing.

    And just like in the UK most of “our” boxers are major sports celebrities, doing commercials, guest-stars on tv-shows etc. Maske making the front page of the Bild Zeitung (europes biggest newspaper) isn’t a big deal 😉

  9. Liger05 says:

    Sky Sports (possibly the biggest sports broadcaster in Europe) shows boxing events every week. They show all the big fights from the states.

    Some people talk as if nobody has any interest in boxing anymore and everyone is leaving for MMA.

  10. Jordan Breen says:

    “Maske making the front page of the Bild Zeitung (europes biggest newspaper) isn’t a big deal”

    This was exactly my point.

  11. Rollo the Cat says:

    Boxing in Europe may be having a resurgence, but aren’t there more European champions now? Is that what is driving it? Same with the Phillipines. If people are just following a fighter because of his ethnicity, that by itself doesn’t look good for the future. No promoter would discourage that but boxing needs fans who are fans of the sport itself.

    The decline of boxing in the US is noticable to anyone who followed the sport in past decades. Stats, PPV numbers, etc, only mask the obvious trouble.

    Still, the sport isn’t going to die off anytime soon, just slip further and further from its previous lofty position.

  12. Grape Knee High says:

    Zach, the only reason the IFL’s stock is going up is because the broader equity market had a really awesome day yesterday and is basically continuing through today since there hasn’t been any noticeable profit taking. The Dow Jones Index is hitting all time highs in the low 13,000s now.

  13. “Zach, the only reason the IFL’s stock is going up is because the broader equity market had a really awesome day yesterday and is basically continuing through today since there hasn’t been any noticeable profit taking. The Dow Jones Index is hitting all time highs in the low 13,000s now.”

    So then where do you see the stock in one week’s time?

  14. Grape Knee High says:

    In my personal opinion, the IFL’s stock price doesn’t really matter, unless they are planning to do a secondary dilutive offering or a private PIPE deal. And I find either situation very doubtful in the near term. It’s just a simple reflection of how much the market — one that is generally ignorant of MMA — thinks the IFL is worth.

    It’s a young, unstable company, so of course the price volatility will be high; it has dropped plenty recent weeks. However, none of these price fluctations affect the IFL’s cash flow, which is the most important metric to judge them by. Unfortunately, I doubt they are cash flow positive yet.

    However, note that it IPO’ed at $1/share. So the silver lining in the recent declines is that it has still gained over 400% since IPO.

  15. Joe T says:

    The UFC and MMA are raging.
    Boxing is on the death bed and will die if they don’t move to smaller goves allowing for more KO’s.

    for ALL the fight news online!!!

  16. […] Sakakibara. So, in essence, as I’ve detailed months ago on this web site, you have to expect a lot of proxy wars right now in Japan (no different than the way politics work in the Middle East at this point). […]

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