Friday, December 16, 2011

The UFC in Japan






When I heard the UFC was returning to Japan after a layoff of 12 plus years, I was bamboozled. I spent 5 minutes making sure I selected the right word to describe my feelings towards this, and that's the one. Why the hell would they go to Japan?

It's a vanity thing. It has to be. Does Japan happen to be an untapped market, one of those places that Zuffa could justify putting a card in to "spread their brand?" No. It's not like Germany or Ireland or Abu Dhabi or Atlanta. Japanese people are acutely aware of MMA, and there are diehard fans there. Remember a little organization called PRIDE?

So that means it's a market where the UFC will do gangbuster numbers across the board, like Australia or Montreal or Toronto, right? Um, no. The UFC will not do well, at least in terms of live attendance, in Japan. In fact, I am extremely curious as to whether or not they will even put as many asses in the seats as DREAM was able to when they were last at the Saitama Super Arena, which was officially announced as 9,270.

Even if the attendance is decent, though, what I'm stoked to hear (or not hear) is the silent stoicism of the crowd. You know how at every UFC event they make a point to pan camera shots through the crowd to capture some raw, drunken emotions? ("UFC! Blood! Beer! Punches! YEAH!!!!!") Imagine the vibe when they do that in Tokyo only to see multiple guys with reading glasses on politely and intensely reading their program inserts like they hold a higher truth to the universe. Maybe this wont happen, but I certainly hope it does. This card is going to answer the question "I wonder what it would be like to hold a UFC card with all of the crowd energy of a wake?"

The "kakutogi boom" has been over for quite some time, and Japan hasn't found anyone close to replacing Kazushi Sakuraba when it comes to star power. Sakuraba encapsulated everything the Japanese public wanted out of a superstar: pro wrestling pedigree, boatloads of charisma, tons of heart and grit, fun and creative fight entrances, and the uncanny ability to turn a moment of nothing into something memorable. The Japanese public is all about stars. There's a reason that the most-watched fight in the history of JMMA is Naoya Ogawa vs Giant Silva (a fact, by the way). Nobody with that pro wrestling pizzazz is looming on the horizon to capture the imagination of Japanese casuals. And even if there were, he certainly isn't on this card.
 
I can't figure out a rational reason for the UFC to go to Japan. Maybe this is their subconscious way of pretending to keep PRIDE alive. I don't know. I do know two things.

1.  After this card, there will be more cuts than the French Revolution.

Some of these fights have a "These guys have proven that they have no business in the Octagon, but they signed three fight deals and we contractually owe them one more ... dammit ... screw it, we'll just throw them on the Japan card!" stink to them. Kid Yamamoto and Takanori Gomi need to be axed. They aren't getting better, and they aren't taking necessary steps to attempt to do so (During his last "training camp", Kid was reportedly drinking and smoking like somebody on Mad Men). They're just going in there, windmilling, and hoping for the best. Steve Cantwell will be gone should he lose to bruiser Riki Fukuda. And really, Leonard Garcia should be cut no matter what happens. Horrendous decisions aside, Garcia is 0-8-1 in his last nine fights. That streak is almost Shannon Ritch-ian. No, seriously. Look at his record. His fights are exciting, but this is someone who shouldn't even be fighting at the Tachi Palace, let alone in the UFC. Enough already.

Even something like Akiyama-Shields raises eyebrows. Both are skilled guys that, for whatever reason, have looked terrible during their UFC tenures. I wouldn't be surprised to see Yoshi get cut after a loss. Thems the breaks.

2. They can't put this card on pay-per-view, right?

Now, I'm not saying that it isn't pay-per-view worthy. Any card headlined by Ben "My best friend was born in a manger" Henderson and Frankie Edgar is worth shelling out whatever sum it'll take to see it. However, Japan is 16 hours ahead of us time wise. In the past, like when they'd run in England, they'd just run the card on a tape delay later that night, in the usual pay-per-view slot. But now that their days on Spike are numbered, this means that they'll most likely run this on FX. Not only that, but the start time in Japan is also going to raise some concerns. It's going to be freaking early.

It's strange; it's like they're intentionally burying great fights like Bendo vs. Guida (absent from the FOX broadcast so Dana and Brock could flap their gums) and Bendo vs. Edgar (a compelling matchup and an instant Fight of the Year candidate ... naturally, they main event it on the Japan card, where you'd be hard pressed to find 20 people in the entire country who care).

I'm interested to see how they play this. Zuffa has proven that they're more cognizant of the fact that the international market is often very different than the American one, and that getting on TV can slowly phase out the importance of pay-per-view buys. But this is going to be a disaster.

All of this reeks of "We're the UFC, we're a monopoly, and we can do whatever we want, including running a show in Japan without a single matchup that might compel Japanese fans." How could they run a show there and not have ONE "Japan vs. Japan" matchup? Look at the Rio card; there were "all Brazilian" fights everywhere you looked. This whole card just feels like a giant Eff You to Japan. It's a vanity project, something for Lorenzo and Dana to cross off of their "Things I Always Wanted To Do" checklist. Nothing more.

19 comments:

  1. stop writing shit articles mister.

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  2. Tell you what: I'll stop writing them as soon as you tell me why I should.

    Thanks for reading!

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  3. you should stop writing them because they suck and are uneducated man.

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  4. Wow. This entire article is one big crock of shit. Especially the last paragraph. This writers a retard.

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  5. Terrible article. Just an excuse to bash the UFC. I thought the nationality of the fighters didn't matter to the Japanese fans? Seriously, don't ever write again. This whole piece is a vanity thing for the writer.

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  6. It's not my intention to bash the UFC. It just doesn't make any sense that they'd do a show in Japan other than to say they did one. That's all.

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  7. "Tell you what: I'll stop writing them as soon as you tell me why I should."

    cos you know jack all about MMA. Please never write an article on MMA again, EVER.

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  8. "It just doesn't make any sense that they'd do a show in Japan other than to say they did one"

    You are either plain stupid or sociopathic.

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  9. Walker I applaud your article, the truth is MMA has considerably declined in Japan since the golden days of Pride, the sport has even taken a back seat to boxing. Unfortunately this reality is ignored by many such as the attackers in your blog and the Shertards from Sherdog, SugarRayRickets

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  10. Another point is the Japanese fans have gotten and moved on from the fringe sport of MMA

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  11. The overall point is fine. Going to Japan is basically a vanity project. The UFC has gone before, and they got their asses handed to them. What has changed since then?

    All of the stadiums are infested with yakuza, so have fun with their bullshit.

    The general public doesn't care about mma, and devil foreigners coming in to do it will go over as well as the Xbox did.

    The start time s going to be brutal if people there want to see the prelims

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  12. Well, if I'm either "plain stupid" or a "sociopath" for questioning the UFC's intentions to run a show in Japan, I'm going with "plain stupid", because there's obviously some larger point about this whole thing that eludes me.

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  13. The main thing that's changed is that the UFC is now a huge company that is printing money. The last time they went, SEG was still running them into the ground and basically putting on shows wherever they could. Dothan, Alabama ... Lake Charles, Louisiana ... Cedar Rapids, Iowa ... these were all places the UFC actually held shows because it was such a "renegade" sport.

    Now, they either go to places that they want to "introduce" MMA and their brand to the public in, or they go to tried-and-true places that they know will do great live gates. Japan is niether of these things.

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  14. LOL You might actually be a sociopath. Who cares if the market is declining, there are still fans out there who will be happy to go to an event like this! Do they not matter.

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  15. To the commenter above if Walker is a sociopath then youre a fascist. How dare he form an opinion accompanied with an accurate observation. Seriously you Danatard cant stop

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  16. YEAH FUCK JAPANESE FANS. aren't people anyways...

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  17. I happen to think it's interesting that they are choosing to do a show there despite the declining market. It'd be kind of like Major League Baseball deciding to ressurect the Montreal Expos.

    I'm loving the feedback. lol @ "Danatard".

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  18. Read your year end awards thing, then read this and lost all respect for you. Delete this article unless you wanna right bleacher report articles for the rest of your life.

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  19. this article illustrates the situation for combat sports in Japan, as Mr. Walker pointed out its not MMA leading the sport not even K1

    http://ajw.asahi.com/article/sports/topics/AJ201112300038

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