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Good old-fashioned yakuza scandal hits Sumo business

By Zach Arnold | May 25, 2010

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Remember Enson Inoue’s interview with Jordan Breen last week where he said that the next big stars in MMA would come from yakuza fighters fighting in outlaw promotions? What he didn’t note is that being associated with the yakuza in Japan is still a no-no in terms of public image. Ask the people who worked for PRIDE about how Shukan Gendai’s negative campaign against them went.

Mainichi Daily News has a report that two sumo coaches got busted for selling ring side seats to members of Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest crime family. Their power base is in Osaka & Nagoya, but the turf wars over the last several years has caused major fighting between Yamaguchi-gumi and Inagawa-kai, the big boys in the Kanto area.

Every year, there is a Sumo tournament at Aichi Prefectural Gym in Nagoya (9,000 seat building) and the Mainichi report claims that members of Kodo-kai, Yamaguchi-gumi’s clan in Nagoya, was the beneficiary of the ring side tickets being sold to them.

Take note of this paragraph in the Mainichi report:

Investigators believe the gang members sought to show themselves on live broadcasts of the tournament and give their compatriots watching in prison courage as they serve out their terms.

I point this out because this is a major reason why the Tokyo Metropolitian Police, who don’t have the same kind of criminal powers to go after the bad guys like American authorities do with racketeering laws, get furious when they see big shots in yakuza gangs mugging it up at sporting events on TV. It’s a recruiting tool and a powerful one at that.

It’s something that has also been commonplace in the Japanese fight game for a long, long time. It was a critical part to the storyline about the yakuza scandal that destroyed PRIDE. Seiya Kawamata, who was the yakuza fixer that took care of gangsters at MMA events, claimed that he was ordered to take gangsters from front row seating and put them backstage into VIP rooms. This activity, according to Kawamata, allegedly occurred during the days when PRIDE & K-1 were co-promoting with each other.

Remember when former gangster Hiromichi Momose used to be at ringside for all the PRIDE events and after every fight the winner would go to him at ringside and shake his hand? (He was the one in a black ball cap and black glasses).

The idea of “yakuza special seating” at fighting events is nothing new. It’s why when you saw ticket prices for ring side seats go for 30,000Y and “royal ringside seats” go for 100,000Y a pop that there was always some snickering about the VIP seating.

The more things change, the more they stay the same in the Japanese fight game.

Topics: Media, Zach Arnold | 1 Comment » | Permalink | Trackback |

One Response to “Good old-fashioned yakuza scandal hits Sumo business”

  1. Mark says:

    Investigators believe the gang members sought to show themselves on live broadcasts of the tournament and give their compatriots watching in prison courage as they serve out their terms.

    Really? I think I’d be pissed off if I was doing time for an organization and saw them living the high life while I was stuck in the pokey.


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