The big news of the day over in Japan is that judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii is talking about fighting for the UFC rather than DREAM or Sengoku. If there’s any substantial truth to this at all (remember: the Japanese are epic liars who are in league with Satan), then you can pretty much guarantee that Dana White and the gang are getting ready to try and push their way into Japan again. Here’s Zach Arnold’s thoughts:
It’s not uncommon for a Japanese fight star to use the name value of an American promotion (think: WWE and Japanese wrestlers) to try to build up credibility back home. The “oh, look, WWE is interested in me! But I stayed home in Japan because I’m loyal to you” spin.
That said, if Ishii signs with UFC, there’s only one reason for Zuffa to make this move â€” to run shows in Japan. The problem for UFC is that the climate on the ground for them is hostile â€” they’ll need someone like a Total Sports Asia or someone else to promote events on the ground for them. If Zuffa goes alone into Japan, they will bleed cash heavily and lose face. Japan is a very delicate situation.
The UFC has already shown that they’re willing to work with event promoters in foreign countries – not other MMA promoters but the guys who take care of concerts and shit. In Germany they’ve hooked up with MLK, which has allowed them to turn Germany from a far-fetched talking point to a concrete reality within the span of a few weeks. If you ask me (and I assume you are asking in a hypothetical way since you’re on my damn website) I’d say I don’t expect the UFC to hit up Japan in 2009, but then again I would have placed Germany somewhere in the same area of unlikeliness right up until word came out last month that they were locking down dates.
There are two schools of thought here: move fast and use huge draws in Japan like Ishii and Akiyama, who are both free agents right now. Or move slow, wait for DREAM’s position to hopefully weaken more, and then come in with less competition. I don’t know how agressive the UFC is planning to be, but thus far they seem pretty damned agressive with the foreign expansion. Perhaps they realize that every new market they open up provides more and more security in the long run. But you have to figure that Lorenzo Fertitta is well aware of the price of being too hardcore. After all, he just jumped ship from Station Casinos, which is looking like it might end up going under because they were way too bullish at the wrong time.