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MMA Link Club: The 2011 non-UFC story of the year is…

By Zach Arnold | December 27, 2011

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…surprisingly not Viacom purchasing Bellator. In the years to come, this will be a story that has impact.

For 2011, the non-UFC story of the year is the end of K-1 and Kazuyoshi Ishii’s reign as emperor of the Japanese fight game.

You must understand how much this has got to be eating at him right now. I said that last year’s NYE event at Saitama Super Arena felt like a public execution and it turned out to be so. The conventional wisdom in Japanese insider circles is the following — the reason K-1 didn’t get sold to Golden Glory or other parties is because of Barbizon, a real estate company that makes its money largely in Tokyo. One person claimed that Barbizon loaned money to Mr. Ishii and that due to company debts, the trademarks and IP went to Barbizon.

It reminds me of what happened with Gen’ichiro Tenryu’s WAR promotion in the early 90s when the shell company had some problems (resulting in abandonment) and a new company was created with different IP/trademarks. When former FMW President Shoichi Arai committed suicide, he left behind a note saying his death would activate an insurance policy to financially take care of his family. Teikoku Databank, a large financial analytical firm in Japan, didn’t show the name of the creditor listed in records on television even though the debt was allegedly in the $3M USD range. The FMW logo and IP went to the creditor.

Five years ago, the foundation of PRIDE was on shaky ground due to Shukan Gendai’s negative campaign that was largely aided by admitted K-1 yakuza fixer Seiya Kawamata. The golden plan post-PRIDE was for K-1 to control the network television pipeline. If you wanted on network TV, you had to go through Ishii. The plan was simple in theory — you promote a show and assume the liabilities on that front, you get TV access but share the TV revenue with him. However, there were many flaws with the plan.

K-1 had been a strong live house promotion for kickboxing in the 90s and early part of last decade. They knew how to promote mega-kickboxing events. Kickboxing, after all, is not hard for a casual fan to understand in terms of rules. K-1 was never intended to be an MMA play and they tried to capture those PRIDE fans when the promotion collapsed in 2007. Unfortunately for K-1, they failed miserably at attracting the old PRIDE supporters. HERO’s was what it was. Then DREAM came along and it’s backed by former PRIDE employees/supporters. DREAM never pulled in substantial ratings for their broadcasting TV shows, which in turn meant that K-1’s access on network television was tenuous at best. Once K-1 started losing leverage with the TV networks (Nippon TV & Fuji TV), the game was up. A combination of not being good at promoting house shows combined with a lack of new native star power resulted in the outcome that we have today.

It was never supposed to end this way. Sure, Godfather Ishii will come back in one way or another with a new venture… but K-1 was his meal ticket into the world of Japanese celebrity. He loves the limelight and being a socialite extraordinaire. Within the time span of a decade, he’s gone from having Norika Fujiwara & Kyoko Hasegawa hosting his shows on Fuji TV to not even being in the ball game today. He thought the death of PRIDE would permanently solidify his status as King of Japan. Instead, he went from the penthouse to the outhouse.

The larger question in regards to the Japanese scene is whether or not a network television station will ever make a serious commitment to an MMA, kickboxing, or pro-wrestling league ever again. With heavy pressure being exerted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police department, I have some serious doubts about the future role of Japan in the global fight scene (outside of boxing).

Member sites of the MMA Link Club

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Five Ounces of Pain: Cameras go behind the scenes with Wanderlei Silva during TUF Brazil announcement

I’m very happy to see that he and his brethren from the PRIDE days are doing well still. I can’t imagine, even five years ago, that those guys would have believed that what’s happening today in Brazil was going to happen. However, that’s what happens when you have a lot of cash to spend and you are backed by the country’s wealthiest man.

With Japan all but finished as a major player, Brazil is the main international playground for the sport.

MMA Fighting: Paul Sass, Eddie Windeland both injured, removed from UFC Chicago Fox card

This is what happens when you run too many damn cards and don’t have enough guys to fill the slots. I’m happy that some of the lower-level Strikeforce guys are getting a paycheck but you can’t ignore what the realities are right now in terms of matchmaking.

Fightline: Nick Diaz says he’s a better fighter in all areas than Carlos Condit

The bettors agree, so far, because Nick’s a -140 favorite (7 to 5).

Cage Potato: MMA’s Chain Gang, a depressing review of 2011’s criminal activities

Most ‘crimes’ in MMA take the form of inept judging and flagrant rule breaking, but this past year many professional fighters were caught up in activities that landed them inside of a very different sort of cage. Get ready for a trip down memory lane in our most depressing “booking roundup” of the year. Here’s your run down of 2011’s biggest arrests, convictions, acquittals, and sentencings.

Junie Browning had quite the Christmas in Phuket, Thailand as well.

MMA Mania: Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem fight video simulation for UFC 141

25 runs… 13 in favor of Alistair, 12 in favor of Brock. That sounds about right.

5th Round: Chael Sonnen calls out Jon Jones, ‘Bones’ willing and waiting

I’m glad that the mortgage man figured out the numbers and calculated that Jones is the next guy up behind Brock in terms of drawing PPV buys now with GSP on the sidelines. I’d thoroughly enjoy watching Jones thrashing another victim.

Bleacher Report: Duane Ludwig talks UFC KO record — ‘it separates me from every other human being’

“The record is very cool to have, because it separates me from every other human being past, present and very possibly future,” said Ludwig, who will someday explain the importance of his record to his children with pride. “That’s some pretty cool stuff. Each athlete wants to stand out and this is a very big way to do so.”

Middle Easy: A lesson in street MMA — Christmas day brawsl between Occupy protestors is a necessity

You should have seen the mob mentality in Indianapolis for the Jordan sneakers. It’s almost as bad as a riot at a Sports Authority store for a Tim Tebow jersey in Denver.

LowKick: Satoshi Ishii says Fedor is a legend but that he will be beaten on NYE

That is fine that people consider Fedor the favorite. And it does not bother me at all that everyone thinks that I am the underdog. Less pressure for me. He is the one who has the most to lose going 1-3 in his last 4 fights.

Trust me, he has as much to lose in this fight as Fedor does. I said this fight would be his golden ticket if he accepted it and he did, so that was at least the right move. However, he has to win. If he doesn’t win and he gets booed out of the building or laughed at, his career in Japan is over. It should have never come to this predicament.

He says his goal is to make it into the UFC and become a champion. OK.

Having the Japanese fans support means everything to me. They are the ones who supported me throughout my career in Judo from the beginning all the way through me winning the Gold Medal in the 2008 Olympics. As a Japanese fighter I still want to make my Japanese fans proud along with the rest of my fans around the world.

One year ago, you were booed out of your own country. The fans cheered for Jerome Le Banner fiercely. They saw him as more indicative of Japanese fighting spirit and honor than you… and he’s a gaijin. For the fans that show up this year at Saitama Super Arena, it’s basically in support of Fedor and not in support of Ishii.

His prediction that he will be win by decision is both refreshingly honest and excruciating stupid. He wants to win the fans over and if he wins by decision, people will be pissed at him.

The Fight Nerd: Epic illustration of Yoshihiro Takayama vs. Don Frye is… epic

If you’re looking for newer photos of one Mr. Takayama, click here. He’s got photos of him with one John Stanley Hansen. Plus he has photos of his new restaurant opening called ‘Stomach Hold.’ Yes, it’s in English, and Minoru Suzuki heartily recommends you pay a visit.

MMA Convert: Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler from Bellator 58 is Slobberknocker of the Year

On the same night as Shogun and Dan Henderson… November 19th will go down as one of the best dates ever for guts and hearts in the sport.

MMA Payout: Fuel TV planning UFC marathon on New Year’s, Spike eager to monetize UFC library

The decision by Spike to sabotage Bellator on MTV2 by airing old UFC footage on Friday nights opposite Ultimate Fighter on FX is one of the most headscratching moves ever. It’s silly. The only kind of logic you could manufacture for justifying the decision is rather tortured logic in saying that MTV2 attracts teenie boppers while Spike draws from 18-34 year olds, therefore meaning there are different MMA audiences at play. It makes little sense.

As for Fuel and Fox trying to get clearance for the station by making it Zuffa programming all the time… good luck.

Topics: Japan, K-1, M-1, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 19 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

19 Responses to “MMA Link Club: The 2011 non-UFC story of the year is…”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    1. Viacom’s purchase of Bellator could be the story of the year…. If they weren’t already announcing that they will counterprogram it with UFC re-runs in 2012(as you talked about). It’s either bitterness or a short sighted one year plan. Either way, it doesn’t look good for SpikeTV. They don’t have much left.

    2. The fact that K-1 AND MMA are basically on their deathbed in Japan on the larger scale was basically unthinkable less then a decade ago.

    3. People have short term memories when discussing fight of the year. Edgar/Maynard 2 had all of the epicness of either Shogun/Henderson or Chandler/Alvarez…. But was much more technical. Easily the fight of the year this year, but is getting only a fraction of the coverage because it took place almost a year ago.

    4) As for FUEL TV…. The UFC programming on it will be insane. Basically everything that was online will now be on that channel, with the ability to DVR it. Keep in mind this is a 7 year plan… And FUEL TV is going to be packaged along with many other FOX TV stations when they try and get it in more homes and in HD. And the UFC has that great demographic that advertisers love. I wouldn’t be shocked to see it in 50 million homes by the end of 2012.

    And on the discussion of FUEL TV, I see a lot of people complaining about the UFC giving them less fights due to this deal. That’s actually incorrect.

    In 2011, the UFC had 6 free shows on SpikeTV. Those same shows are going to be on FX now. Same with the 1 hour prelim shows. The UFC had 4 free shows on Versus. Those 4 shows will now be on FOX, and with much better cards.

    The only things fans are losing out on are the Facebook fights that will be on FUEL TV.

    What Zuffa has basiclaly done is added 6 more shows to FUEL, along with a weekly show and the unleashes…. And they are using that to try and get FUEL TV in more homes for FOX. So basically, they are gambling on the bonus material.

    Let’s look at how accessible FUEL TV is at the end of 2013… 5 years left on the contract… And then it will be much easier to determine how good of a deal it was….

    • edub says:

      Completely agree about Maynard-Edgar 2. It was easily the fight of 2011. More technique, better cardio, better action, and frankly better skilled fighters.

      • cutch says:

        I read this from Kevin Iole “According to a Fuel spokesman, FX will carry pay-per-view prelims and Fuel will run the prelims for events which air on FX, FOX, and Fuel. Occasional prelims will still be carried on Facebook”

        Zach was saying the other day about how much Fuji TV brought to the table for Pride but News Corp who own Fox are huge internationaly and can help them expand their TV reach in places they have been trying to break into like India.

    • The Gaijin says:

      Re. 4)

      I hope people take your long-term view on the whole Fuel TV thing. It’s not like FX or Fox (or even SPIKE), so it’s a long range thing.

      I see people jumping ALL over the 15k number for the first show (and it’s a totally sh!tty number as a stand alone mind you) but they’re not going to pull 2 mil viewers overnight – particularly when fans like the people here seemed to have no clue it was even on…viewer/fan “education” will be needed of course, but I’m not ready to crown this a failure based on one number. What is average viewership on Fuel anyways?

      • Chromium says:

        What is average viewership on Fuel anyways?

        I don’t know, but whatever it is it makes Versus look like CBS. Really, I hope Fox is seriously committed to getting Fuel better placement on cable and satellite outlets. Right now it’s like an obscure sports channel that you can usually only get by specifically getting Sports packages. The current goal should be to raise itself up to the level of the Golf Network (albeit with a totally different demographic) where it often comes standard as a tier 1 or tier 2 channel.

  2. Mike Lewis says:

    How does 2 guys getting injured on the fox card have anything to do with the UFC running too many shows?

    • Alan Conceicao says:

      The argument is that it HURTS THE PRODUCT to not have stacked cards. You know, because lots of people are paying lots of money for their tickets to see no-names in the opening few bouts.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        I’ve always been of the opinion that “too many” and “not stacked enough” PPV’s hurt the UFC. More free cards, which seems to be the current trend, only does good things for the sport. Of course the free cards have to be of a certain quality, but there is a lot more leeway for those cards.

        • Nottheface says:

          They need to find a way for the fans to better differentiate the type of cards, kind of like how tennis and golf run constant events but most don’t have the prestige or receive the attention that the big events do. PPVs/FOX cards should be stacked and comparable to the Majors in golf. FOX cards would thus be the WGC and Fuel and TUF events would be the PGA’s regular weekly events. Right now they try and sell too many poor ppvs as major events, and too many foreign events are numbered UFC cards confusing the market as to what truly is a noteworthy card. I know they don’t want to undersell these lower tier cards because they don’t want to kill ratings, but I think if they don’t they continue to experience fan burnout.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Having Rogan say: “This is the biggest fight ever” for Fitch/Penn is bad. I’m not sure if he used that word for the PPV exactly, but he does hype them up too much for the ones that don’t deserve it.

          I think having Announcer Team B with the guy from ESPN will help to differentiate the bigger and smaller shows.

          In a perfect world, Zuffa would run 1 big show a month. 8 of them being on PPV and 4 of them being on FOX. That would instantly make for stacked cards and easily show fans what the big shows are.

          I’m even willing to see 15 or so PPV/FOX combined shows a year. But their current rate of 19 total (15 PPV and 4 FOX) is overboard. That’s really my only big complaint with the UFC at this point. I love what they are doing with the Heavyweight and Flyweight Divisions. I love that they are bringing so many free fights to the fans.

          But the number of big shows needs to be lowered and strengthened.

        • Alan Conceicao says:

          The problem is invented. Most of their shows have weak all around cards and have had weak all around cards for years. An incremental downward change in the quality of said cards is meaningless because what draws eyeballs and buys are big fights. Same as it ever was.

        • Megatherium says:

          Big fights are what draw eyeballs and ppv numbers, just not my eyeballs and ppv dollars. I like deep cards from my premium mma company and that’s largely been absent since 2009.

          And with ppv buyrates down over roughly the same period maybe I’m not alone.

    • RST says:

      “How does 2 guys getting injured on the fox card have anything to do with the UFC running too many shows?”

      Shame on Conceicao, Huddle, Nottheface and Megatherium for answering that question at all!

      Dont be part of the problem brothers!

      • Alan Conceicao says:

        It has nothing to do with anything. Its just dudes getting hurt. Not only that, they’re just random guys no one cares about.

  3. RST says:


    It actually looks like 3 seconds to me?!

    Are you counting when Goulet gets closed, or when he hits the floor?

    Happy Festivus everyone!

  4. Mark says:

    I’m all for UFC competitors, but I am not sold on Bellator with Spike. It feels like they’re the person who got dumped and to get back (in their minds) at their ex they go and grab the first person they see at a bar for a rebound f…, fling, yeah, rebound fling.

    They’re not expecting great things, they’re not even that impressed with them. But UFC broke their hearts and they want comfort.

  5. Zheroen says:

    First “Fuel-exclusive” airing of Countdown to UFC 141 draws 15,000 viewers. Suddenly, Bellator’s MTV2 numbers don’t look so bad…

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I didn’t even know FUEL TV was showing UFC content yet. Which makes me think that if somebody like me didn’t even know, then most other people didn’t know either.

      The ratings are going to look bad for a little while, no doubt about it. It really should be interesting to see what type of growth they can get and how many houses they can get into (including in HD).

      So 15,000 is the starting point. Should be interesting to see what it is by the end of 2013. We will find out if this experiment is a success or failure.


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