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DREAM’s 5/29 Saitama Super Arena card reportedly falling apart

By Zach Arnold | April 29, 2010

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Let the wisdom of Josh Gross fill you in:

The DREAM light heavyweight grand prix set for May 29 has been canceled. Fighter reps were told Wednesday. Still working on the reason.

Looks like the reason for the cancellation is an issue between DREAM and its TV partner, TBS.

Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong this year for both K-1 and Real Entertainment, the parent company of DREAM filled with ex-PRIDE staffers from Dream stage Entertainment. (Get it… Real Entertainment, Dream Stage… clever, aren’t they? It’s like Nobuyuki Sakakibara having Ubon Inc. as a company because Ubon is Nobu spelled backwards.)

The last part of Josh’s comments is the most important to focus on. Tokyo Broadcasting System not ponying up the cash to pay for a Light Heavyweight GP tournament featuring Gegard Mousasi and Renato Babalu is not surprising. TBS wants Japanese stars and ratings. DREAM features neither of those qualities. To top it off, the 5/29 Saitama event is headlined by Nick Diaz vs. Hayato Sakurai in a Strikeforce vs. DREAM interpromotional feud that has zero juice to it. Any juice that could have been obtained was squashed when Gilbert Melendez destroyed Shin’ya Aoki in Nashville on April 17th.

The purpose of DREAM for K-1 was largely as a television property to keep any possible MMA competitors off of over-the-air Japanese television. Since cable and satellite television is not a viable option for a Japanese fight promotion to generate much cash flow with, OTA is the only way to survive as a major league property in that country. Without TBS cooperating, DREAM as an entity is largely dead and everyone knows it.

The goal of K-1 Godfather Kazuyoshi Ishii was to control the entire pipeline of television for the fight business in Japan. He achieved that goal once PRIDE died. He was the only ball game in town. Wanted to promote your league in Japan and be on television? You had to go through him and do business on his terms, meaning you picked up a lot of the costs for producing a live show and K-1 split some television money. The plan, in theory, is a great one unless the product you put on television has no appeal to Japanese television audiences.

So what happens if DREAM dies and K-1 struggles to keep their network television deals going? It opens the door for someone else to try to get their own OTA television deal. The problem is that there is no real competition in the fight game right now. Also, anyone with a questionable background in Japan is not going to put a lot of skin in the game given that PRIDE had their fallout from the yakuza scandal.

But let’s say that someone does try to make a play for an OTA deal given K-1’s current weakness. The most likely candidate to try to make something happen would be Takahiro Kokuho, the boss of J-ROCK (the managing company of Hidehiko Yoshida and his stablemates). Kokuho is the classic successful-agent-turned-failed-promoter businessman in the fight game. When he was top dog as an agent during the PRIDE days, he got his man Yoshida an estimated $5 million USD fight purse to fight Naoya Ogawa for a New Year’s Eve event. Like most agents in Japan, Kokuho’s power source backing him was very strong. Once PRIDE collapsed, Kokuho ended up trying a major play with Sengoku. Kokuho claimed that he would be the antithesis of DREAM booking and that he had “scientific methods” of booking fights. In the end, he was a terrible booker and committed the ultimate sin in the fight game — he was and is boring.

In many respects, Mr. Kokuho is the Japanese version of Monte Cox without the volume of fighters Monte has on smaller deals. Both men have had big track records in the fight game as agents and have delivered in big deals. (Ask Tim Sylvia about that regarding those Affliction pay days.) However, neither man is what you would call someone who would do well leading a major-league MMA promotion.

So, if Mr. Kokuho isn’t the man ready to crack open the door for an MMA play in Japan, who is? Antonio Inoki? Been there, done that. It’s possible he could get one more shot on a trial basis with a network given that he still has name value in the country. But who else is there who could make something work should DREAM entirely collapse? It’s difficult to say. Akira Maeda has his promotion with The Outsiders but it’s largely just to stay occasionally active in the business. Right now, the Japanese promoter war chest is largely empty.

However, don’t make the mistake of assuming that a UFC-type product could waltz into the Japanese marketplace and do strong business consistently. The Japanese fight fans want a Japanese product with Japanese faces all the way around. Unfortunately for DREAM, they really haven’t been able to deliver too much on that end lately, either.

Topics: DREAM, Japan, K-1, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 7 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

7 Responses to “DREAM’s 5/29 Saitama Super Arena card reportedly falling apart”

  1. David M says:

    Ishii is their best hope, and after losing to Yoshida, it is fair to say he has a long ways to go. Failing that, I guess they could just throw Saku in a tournament with some people with no fight training at all and hope for the best..

  2. […] Fight Opinion took a more in depth look into the other possible contributing factors. Either way the mma scene in Japan hasn’t looked this bleak in a while. Share and Enjoy: […]

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    If it ain’t happening in North America…. It doesn’t really matter anymore. That is basically the truth of MMA 99% of the time in 2010.

    I don’t think the UFC could ever get a foothold in Japan…. but I wonder what level of failure/success they would have if they put on a card with all of their Japanese/Korean fighters….

    Nobody cares about the DREAM Titles anymore. Aoki and Zaromskis got wrecked in Strikeforce. They both looked undersized and presented no real threats. The LHW GP was going to be a joke anyways, and just a repeat of fights that Strikeforce has already put on.

    Where does Sengoku fall into this conversation? Could they pick up where DREAM is failing?

    DREAM’s biggest problem is that Japanese fighters have been absolute failures on the world stage. They cut such little weight that they are heavily undersized for their weight classes. Uno & Aoki looked like Featherweights while in a cage. Akiyama looked like a Welterweight. The only guy who is having some sort of success is Yushin Okami, and he has more of an American style….

    Lastly, these problems also become Strikeforce’s problems. They rely on DREAM building up fighters for them to use on their cards. If DREAM isn’t doing Tournaments and isn’t building up fighters…. Strikeforce is going to be hurting. Heck, Coker already used up 2 DREAM Champions with zero build up or payoff. We are going to be getting more main events like Lawler/Miller when DREAM can’t come in to help him out….

  4. edub says:

    Would like to see Dream become DREAMFORCE, or SFDREAM… obviously I am not going to come up with something that doesn’t sound corny or idiotic, but I want co promotion to be exactly that. This Dream LHW tournament could’ve been the jump off point,(and I guess it still could).

    Start the LHW tournament in either Japan or USA, but don’t have just Dream fighters. You could use “Feijao”, Mike Kyle, “Abongo” Humphrey, and obviously “Babalu” and Mousasi. Market it as a tournament for the next contender for King MO. Keeping the same set of rules would obviously be key also.

    Don’t have your champions take meaningless fights. Nick Diaz is going over to Japan for exactly what reason? To beat up Sakurai? Why not wait until you have a viable challenger to bring the champion over. Maybe have Jay Hieron fight Sakurai first, and put the winner of that fight in with Diaz. Then bring Kawajiri over to fight Melendez, and actually promote him. Zuffa’s model is there for the taking. Use fight footage from wherever you can get it. Dream, FEG, Shooto,… Fight footage and impressive footage at that is what brings in more fans.

    Asian audiences haven’t always needed Asian stars to be entertained by mma.

  5. […] Arnold, the MMA blogoshpere’s expert on the Japanese MMA scene, believes TBS wants Japanese stars, not expensive foreign light heavyweights who won’t pull ratings. The last part of Josh’s […]

  6. spacedog says:

    Seriously, Japanese fighters need to cut weight. End of story. Had Cro Cop done the correct thing and dropped to 205, had Aoki dropped to 145, had Markus dropped to LW, and should Akiyama drop to WW they would have had at least a chance at success.

  7. Dave says:

    Wow, so.. KID off the Strikeforce show to most likely save DREAM.14 from being cancelled, DREAM.15 to host a 4-man tournament for their LHW belt, their official reason being that they couldn’t find 8 fighters.



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