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Japan 2011: The more things change, the more they stay the same

By Zach Arnold | November 3, 2011

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While the Fertitta family faces some nagging troubles over Xyience

Two articles of importance for you to read today:

Most fascinating is that news about K-1 and new ownership is getting zero mainstream press traction in Japan. It’s a dead story. Most incredible.

What’s not incredible or shocking is that there will be yet another attempted New Year’s Eve event at Saitama Super Arena this year, promoted by Real Entertainment. The former employees of PRIDE will work in conjunction with Antonio Inoki as the front man, just like he was last year. The show title will be called “Genki desu ka!” which is Inoki’s trademark slogan. It’s a sweetheart deal for him. The discussion is that there will be 20 matches on the card and that IGF aces Peter Aerts & Jerome Le Banner will be on the card. There is some hope of getting the telecast on broadcast television, but nobody is sure how things will play out given that it’s already November and it’s short time for a TV network to get an ad agency working at the last-second to make the numbers work.

Shin’ya Aoki & Tatsuya Kawajiri are also rumored to be fighting on the show. I thought Aoki was supposed to fight Eddie Alvarez in the States in January? Perhaps they fight here on this card… or Aoki gets an easy opponent and sets up the fight with Eddie in the States for Q1 2012.

The most depressing takeaway from what’s currently happening in Japan is that it’s the same old players. There’s no true, new blood entering into the space. In America, we see how UFC & Bellator are positioned. There isn’t even a promotion like Bellator in Japan at this point that could be bought as a real turnkey operation. Sengoku’s dead, K-1 is persona non grata in media circles, the magazines are dying, newspaper publications are fortunate to cover other sports, and TV backing is gone which means it’s really hard to create new stars. The UFC Japan sold show in February is by no means any threat to whoever is remaining standing in Japan, but that’s not really saying much at all.

I have lots of friends in Japanese media circles who are moving into other professions or just scaling back tremendously their activities in the sport. It’s predictable and inevitable, but it still hurts.

As for Kazuyoshi Ishii still hanging around K-1, I’m 100% not surprised. Even if he’s still a front man and/or getting a cut of the action, he’s a man who would never let go of the K-1 name. It’s his whole social identity. With that said, his social identity is supposed to mean soemthing… in Japan. Running shows in Hong Kong or mainland China isn’t going to attract a lot of interest amongst the Japanese sports public at large. Plus, Ishii’s got a notorious history with contracts and legal matters. When he and agent Ken Imai were buddies a decade ago, it was Imai who handled the paperwork and Ishii who was the social hustler. As Tony laid out in his Sherdog article, we all saw what happened when Ishii got busted by the authorities.

Furthermore, the size & scope of the Japanese fight game is entirely dependent on how much illegal cash is available. Given the renewed efforts of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police to deal with the various gangs, it will be interesting to see if the fight game can still active the money marks or if the sport has lost so much value in terms of social credibility that people who would normally blow cash on it no longer see much value in doing so.

Topics: Japan, K-1, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 6 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

6 Responses to “Japan 2011: The more things change, the more they stay the same”

  1. CapnHulk says:

    So, is the Japanese fight scene caught in the spiral of a self-defeating prophecy?

    It’s not on TV because there’s no fresh blood to build hype.

    There’s no fresh blood because it isn’t on TV.

    What’s the boxing scene like in Japan?

  2. Jonathan says:

    I am sorry to hear this Zach. I know that JMMA and Puroeasu (Sp?) are your main and first interests, and I know that the demise of that “scene” must suck horribly for you. Great article here, and my only wish is that it a) was not true and b) did not have to be written. But it is true and it did need to be written.

    • RST says:

      Sometimes things have to bottom out first to resurrect them.

      you have to wipe the slate clean before you start over.

      Hopefully (and likely IMO), this is just a valley between peaks.

      I’m sure you remember the UFC’s own dark days.

  3. Fluyid says:

    Re: Professional Combative Sports Drug Screening

    The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (Department) will implement random drug screening procedures at Department selected combative sports events beginning November 1, 2011. The Executive Director is authorized to require testing pursuant to 16 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Section 61.47(p) which states:

    “A person who applies for or holds a license as a contestant shall provide a urine specimen for drug testing either before or after the bout, if directed by the executive director or his designee. The applicant or licensee is responsible for paying the costs of the drug screen.”

    Promoters will be notified as soon as possible prior to the scheduled event how many contestants will be randomly chosen for testing, the associated costs, and the name and telephone number of the laboratory/testing facility you will need to contact in order to arrange pre-payment.

    The specifics concerning which contestants were randomly chosen, the need for credential(s)/passes for testing staff and the logistics of the testing protocol will be discussed at the weigh-in.

    If you have any questions regarding this drug testing protocol, please contact Greg Alvarez, Combative Sports Assistant Program Manager at 512-475-2875 or by email at [email protected].


    William H. Kuntz, Jr.
    Executive Director
    Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation

  4. Dave says:

    Boxing in Japan is surprisingly big right now.

    K-1 isn’t getting press in Japan because Ishii turned his back on Japan, basically, and set up shop in Hong Kong. According to him there will still be a few big events in Japan for K-1, but nowhere near the level there was before.

    The question I have is what is going on with FEG, are they completely out?


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