The UFC plans to return to Japan next year to host four events, UFC executive Mark Fisher recently told NikkanSports.com.

Fisher, the UFC executive vice president and managing director of Asian operations, revealed that the new Japanese event series will be held in small venues in front of about 5,000 spectators and will focus on fighter development in the Land of the Rising Sun. The Japanese shows are expected to receive distinct numbering apart from the UFC’s larger, regular events.

The UFC returned to Japan this past February following an 11-year absence to host UFC 144 at the Saitama Super Arena. The event was attended by 20,000 spectators and featured a title-winning performance from Benson Henderson in the main event, as “Smooth” wrested the lightweight strap from then-champion Frankie Edgar via unanimous decision.

Though longstanding organizations like Shooto and Pancrase still actively hold events, Japan’s two most visible promotions from an international standpoint, Dream and Sengoku, have both ceased operations. From 1997 to 2007, Japan was home to the massively popular Pride Fighting Championships until the promotion lost its domestic television deal and was subsequently sold to UFC parent company Zuffa. Prior to UFC 144, the Las Vegas-based organization had not held an event on Japanese soil since December 2000, when Tito Ortiz defended his light heavyweight championship against Yuki Kondo in the main event of UFC 29.

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