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Discussion about the future of K-1 and Japanese MMA

By Zach Arnold | July 27, 2010

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KENNY RICE: “In recent days, PUJI Capital of China has put in $230 million dollars in the expansion of FEG, it’s the parent of DREAM and K-1. Mike Kogan, the director of FEG USA, spoke to Inside MMA about what this deal means.”

MIKE KOGAN: “You know, the reaction is obviously a lot of excitement because we have a lot of plans and a lot of goals that we’re now able to realize and put into work. In case of K-1, you know we’re looking at expanding it to create almost like a soccer league where the K-1 World GP events are held once every four years instead every year and thus raise the value of the belt and then hold more regional tournaments and the European tournaments and the US tournaments and then crown you know individual champions there. And then with DREAM, not so long ago Japan was a dominant force in the MMA, it was actually the #1 country for MMA and now that the focus has shifted on the US with the UFC and you know DREAM is starting to try to get some of that back to Japan and get the fire going sort of speak in Japan so there’s a lot of plans with that. And PUJI kind of bought into that whole theory and you know has allocated a substantial amount of capital which will go to you know realize these goals.”

KENNY RICE: “And this from Andrew Simon, who is the CEO of HDNet Fights: ‘As the exclusive North American broadcaster for DREAM, K-1 and K-1 MAX, we are excited that great events will only get better for HDNet fight fans. HDNet is committed to bringing the best combat sports from around the world and this is a big step as FEG plans to do great events around the globe. It looks like the funds will be used to expand and potentially a long-term goal of building towards a “World Cup” type tournament of K-1. All great reasons for US fight fans to make sure they get HDNet!’ That’s from our boss, Andrew Simon.

“And as of we actually want you to watch HDNet but I think one of the things that Andrew points out in there and Mike Kogan also went on in that interview to tell Inside MMA that you know there’s a few stipulations in there. All the money doesn’t come in at once. It comes in as the process goes along to expand things. I think it’s quite interesting about the K-1 possibilities of global expansion. That’s still an area in MMA I think that fans enjoy watching and you know, Bas, you’ve been there, you know, you got great strikers and people like that action.”

BAS RUTTEN: “Yeah, no, they do, but it’s… *sigh* … I don’t know. First of all, they’re going to bring in a cage right? From what I hear with DREAM also? For the fighters?”

KENNY RICE: “Yeah. I think.”

BAS RUTTEN: “In the past, in Tokyo or in Japan, it’s been known that they don’t like the cage, for some reason they don’t like the cage and they need, I always say, they need a new Sakuraba. They need a guy who really sparks an interest. They don’t have a guy like that right now so I don’t know if that money’s going to do any good. They need a guy who can beat the big guys who come from overseas and like I said, four family members of the famous MMA family and you beat that guy, four Gracie members you know, a guy like Sakuraba if they can find a guy like that who starts beating like Alistair Overeem or something, then I say OK, now it’s going to be interesting. Because let’s face it, in America if you don’t have any American champions. Look at the K-1. It’s not big in America, there’s no American champion. Who are you going to root for? And that’s what I think, that’s the big problem now in Japan. They don’t have a Japanese superstar who can beat the big dogs.”

Topics: DREAM, Japan, K-1, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 14 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

14 Responses to “Discussion about the future of K-1 and Japanese MMA”

  1. Nader says:

    Wow… spot on, Bas! American’s want to see USA on top all the time. They would not be as fully interested in foreign fighters as they would if an American was dominating.

    The money/expansion sounds great but we shall see… I would love to see explosive and compelling events like when Pride FC vs. UFC was happening, all over again but that is not happening for a while.

    • Steve4192 says:

      I think you missed his message.

      He was saying that Japanese fans aren’t all that different than American fans. He wasn’t trying to denigrate the American fanbase.

      Both fan bases require domestic talent to rise to the top if the sport is going to be successful. He was trying to say that Japanese MMA will never recover until Japanese nationals become relevant at the highest levels of the sport again.

  2. Mr.Roadblock says:

    I love the idea of doing the GP every 4 years. Or every 2 years. K-1 has basically become a Grand Prix league.

    This will allow them to have a champion and interesting fights then every 4 years we can get excited about the GP. It puts a lot more at stake and makes winning that much more impressive.

    If marketed the right way I think K-1 could find a solid audience here. But I’ve thought kickboxing could catch on in the US for the last 25 years and I haven’t been right yet. I still think K-1 Max could become huge with the Mexican boxing crowd.

  3. Chromium says:

    I came to post too, that Bas is dead on here. Without Japanese stars, Japanese MMA is going to go into a slow decline. No wonder they’re starting to veer towards lower weight classes, where they’ve traditionally had more success.

    If Dream really wants to help foster Japanese talent though, they should consider using some of that money to back their own fight camp in Japan, and import as many top trainers and fighters as they can. Might be totally unfeasible, but just a thought.

  4. mattio says:

    Japan has had years to put on a Alistair Overeem vs Josh Barnett fight, but they haven’t even come close to pulling it off. Why is that? Wouldn’t Japanese MMA fans get excited at the prospect of seeing the two biggest Japanese based heavyweights go at it? Why do they always match Barnett and Overeem against jabronis and has-beens every single time? The way they have used Overeem and Barnett these past few years is just incompetence personified in my opinion.

    What if Japanese MMA orgs were to take “the big dogs” out of the equation. Wouldn’t Japanese vs. Japanese matches hold more interest for Japanese audiences then then watching Japanese fighters lose to foreign fighters? If Japanese fighters refuse to weight cut and foreign fighters weight cut by neccesity, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the foreign fighters are going to have an advantage over any Japanese opponent they face.

    Was it really Sakuraba who drew the crowds or was it Bob Sapp? Bob Sapp was the ratings king during Japanese MMA’s salad days, right?

    And even if Japanese MMA were to get a new Sakuraba type fighter to build around, wouldn’t pitting him against a murderers’ row of deadly opponents every time out quickly kill the golden goose? Fighting spirit is perfect to encapulate in the worked pro wrestling market, but showcasing it in real fights just ages the fighter and quickly makes him a shell of his former self. If the only way to get Japanese audiences to truly love you is to destroy yourself over the course of your career, I am not surprised in the slightest that no Japanese fighter has attempted to take Sakuraba’s place.

    • Steve4192 says:

      “Japan has had years to put on a Alistair Overeem vs Josh Barnett fight, but they haven’t even come close to pulling it off. Why is that?”

      1. Because Japanese MMA is not one giant amorphous blob. It consists of a number of different competing promoters and Overeem & Barnett have not been under the same promotional umbrella since the death of Pride.

      2. Because no one considered Overeem a top HW until he got brand new beach muscles and started whooping guys in K-1 kickboxing matches. Prior to that, no one cared about Alistair Overeem.

    • edub says:

      You make some great points man. The only thing i disagree with is the fact that japanese fighters are losing because of weight cutting…

  5. mattio says:

    And I have another question- The Yakuza is still swarming in Japanese MMA, right?

    So if Japanese MMA were to make a huge comeback, all it would take is one watchdog media campaign highlighting the criminals associated with Japanese MMA and it’s right back in the gutter for them.

    • Steve4192 says:

      I am sure in light of the current fiasco in Sumo, that every other combat sports promoter in Japan is making great efforts to erase any evidence of ties to the Yakuza. They’ll still be out there, but they’ll be buried deep, deep, DEEP in the shadows.

  6. 45 Huddle says:

    How is K-1 doing business and ratings wise lately?

  7. white ninja says:


    Buried DEEP indeed; problem is that that is not deep enough at all

  8. Maxomillion Solaris says:

    The Japanese are having trouble finding what to copy. Culturally and historically they emulate and improve on what the front runner is doing. Currently they are confused. Should they try to emulate the wec or ufc? K-1 has always been amazing and it will always be popular outside the us. I enjoy watching the grand prix more than ufc.
    Bas is right. You need a bona-fide star. And the cage, is the cage and it slows down the whole show. The ring forces action, knees on the ground forces the action, and having your purse taken away when you dont fight forces the action.
    Whos to say the american Yakuza don’t run things over here?

  9. Black Dog says:

    Bas is very much on the right track. First of all, the cage just does not work over there. There is an aversion to it; now, the Japanese may well just accept this as change, but I don’t think in this instance they will.

    And yes: a new Sakuraba is needed. Not someone just like him, but I think there will be some new Japanese stars in the future who can stand in there with the best. Time will tell just who that will be.

  10. Fightlinker says:

    I just can’t make myself care about any of the bullshit these K1 / FEG guys are saying because it’s all pie in the sky garbage that will never end up happening.

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