What Does the Future Hold for MMA in Japan?


With reports by AsainMMA.com saying that Japanese MMA promotion Dream’s parent company, Real Entertainment, has closed up shop, major MMA in Japan is at a crossroads right now.

Speaking to MMAWeekly.com, AXS TV’s Hans Thompson said of Real Entertainment’s closing, “I don’t have exact numbers on how many staff, but they essentially haven’t had a staff for much of this year aside from a handful of individuals.”

Thompson believes that Real Entertainment had kept Dream on life support as to not lose booking rights for one of Japan’s premier areas on one of its biggest entertainment days.

“The only credible rumors I’ve heard say they were looking to put something together because they have a real interest in not losing Saitama (Super Arena) for New Year’s Eve,” said Thompson. “As long as they continue to have a show there, they’ll have a priority for booking it.”

AsianMMA.com also reported that members of the Pride FC staff might be eligible to return to MMA next year after no-compete clauses that were part of the Zuffa buyout deal expire. Thompson spoke of one name in particular that was seen as a driving force in Pride.

“I don’t know the particulars, but I have heard that (former Pride president) Nobuyuki Sakakibara is barred from doing anything through 2013 under the terms of the deal,” said Thompson. “After I heard that, I did a little digging – nothing official – and from what I read from commenters and bloggers is that he’s busy with a Japanese soccer team.”

Thompson points out that whoever attempts to make a run at creating a major MMA promotion in Japan, they will face many of the same issues that plagued other companies and eventually lead to their demise.

“(Obstacles such as) the waning popularity of MMA in Japan, the general economic problems in Japan and mafia ties still remain,” said Thompson. “There are a lot of good reasons why large scale MMA can’t succeed in Japan right now, and until somebody proves otherwise, there’s not really any reasons why it can succeed in that climate.”

Thompson also told MMAWeekly.com that bringing coverage of existing Japanese promotions to AXS TV is something the company is working very hard on, but has its own problems.

“I’m doing what I can, but anything to do with Japan is kind of cost-prohibitive, and there’s the time difference and all of that,” said Thompson. “We do some Japanese highlights on ‘Inside MMA’ like Deep, Ruff from China and One FC, so we represent Asian MMA as much as we’re able to.

“I have reached out pretty much to everybody from Pancrase to Shooto to Jewels and it’s proved difficult to get highlights from them. In terms to broadcasting them on the network, it’s highly unlikely. “

As for the UFC, if Mark Fischer is correct, the promotion could be returning to Japan, but in a smaller capacity more akin to existing companies.

Thompson said of this possibility, “I think the UFC will continue to have a presence in Japan, but there’s something that’s keeping them from going all-in; and it’s possibly the factors that I’ve mentioned.”

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