Dream Announces Seven Events for 2010 Calendar

January 28, 2010

NightmarefBattle.com is reporting that Dream has announced it will host seven events in the 2010 calendar year including it’s only official date which is Dream 13 on March 22nd.

DREAM will hold events in March, April, May, July, September, and November this year and the April event will most likely be held in South Korea. If the South Korea event goes well a November event might be held abroad as well (with Taiwan or Macau as possible locations). Like the 2009 Osaka event, a cage event is planned for this year too.

 

A Light Heavyweight GP consisting of 8 or 16 fighters (planned for the May, July, and September events or two of them if it’s an 8-man GP) will take place this year and Gegard Mousasi will play a leading role in it.

 

Middleweight and Heavyweight champions will also be crowned in 2010 so by the end of the year all weight classes in DREAM will have champions. The Heavyweight champion will be decided through a single fight and not a GP. Alistair Overeem will likely be one of the two participants of the Heavyweight title fight.

 

They want to hold crossover fights with other organizations this year as well, especially with SRC and Strikeforce. They think it’ll be a hot thing. DREAM EP Sasahara also said that, if possible, he wants to talk with Yoshida Dojo.

Payout Perspective:

Since rumors started swirling that Don Quixote was on the verge of acquiring FEG’s combat division, we haven’t heard a lot to substantiate the claims other than that the super grocer is planning to continue as a sponsor. The success of the NYE show has given the organization the confidence to go forward with a full slate of shows in 2010, including the light heavyweight grand prix.

The last we heard of Dream’s rival organization Sengoku – the same group it partnered with for its NYE event last year – the organization was planning a similar 6-7 events starting with an event on March 7th, in addition to several proposed tournaments amongst different classes.

Dynamite!! Likely to Return in 2010

January 7, 2010

Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer writes that Dynamite likely did enough with its ratings on NYE to secure a slot with Japanese TV station TBS next year.

It is the rating for the big matches that the network is most concerned with, and it was considered a success, being in second place for what is traditionally the most-watched night of television of the year in Japan. While Sadaharu Tanigawa of K-1 seemed disappointed, hoping to be more competitive with the concert, particularly during the Masato and Ishii matches, TBS president Toshimi Ichihara did a press interview talking about the success of the show in beating a comedy show on NTV that featured a lot of big names. After last year, the tradition was in trouble, but this rating guarantees TBS doing it again next year. The problem is when you look at what drew the rating, Ishii’s debut was a one-time thing and he didn’t look good, and got destroyed in all the newspapers, and Masato, who ended up being the star of the show, was retiring. I could easily see a big push next year to bring him out of retirement because they’ll need him.

Payout Perspective:

The news is good, but Meltzer does hint at the larger problem which still clearly exists in Japanese MMA: the sport’s reliance on the non-traditional matches to draw viewership. Masato’s retirement bout will not be available and Ishii’s star is fading, so what will the organization do next year?

In fairness, you have to give FEG credit for this year’s show; it was the first in a long time that didn’t feature any freak show bouts (even if it did feature the final of the Super Hulk tournament). Moreover, even the regular MMA shows routinely draw 20-40k at the gate, which in many cases is far greater than what MMA is doing in North America.

However, as we move into the future, the one big issue surrounding MMA in Japan will continue to be whether the sport, itself, will take in the country.

Ratings: FieLDS Dynamite!! 2009

January 2, 2010

The numbers are in, and FieLDS Dynamite!! 2009 drew a 16.7%.

Fightopinion with the translation:

The final numbers: NHK’s Kohaku music show – 40.8% (37.1% and 40.8% for the two parts), Dynamite!! with Masato’s last match drew a 16.7%, and Nippon TV’s Downtown comedy special (hotelman 24 hours) did a 16.4%. Fuji TV did a 9.2% rating for it’s program. 

Payout Perspective:

The event finished second in the annual NYE ratings battle, which is a good showing. The result tops what Dream and Sengoku were able to do all year, and is the best Dynamite!! result since 2006.

A list of the Dream and K-1 ratings on the year can be found at Nightmare of the Battle.

Payout Perspective: FieLDS Dynamite!! 2009

December 31, 2009

The last major card of 2009 was held just outside Tokyo, Japan last night as FEG held its annual FieLDS Dynamite!! card from Saitama Super Arena. The event drew a strong 37,000+ people and featured a host of interesting MMA bouts including Shinya Aoki, Gegard Mousasi, Melvin Manhoef, and Kid Yamamoto.

Attendance

The crowd was great – at one point the announced attendance was 45, 406 – and there’s still very much something to be said for the ability of Japanese MMA to draw 37,000 people to an arena. The feeling is that a great deal of the support for this event surrounded the retirement of Masato, but the showing is nonetheless a good one for MMA as a whole.

That panoramic television view showing the huge crowd really gave the event a big time feel, and it’s undoubtedly something that North American MMA events will be shooting for in the coming years. It’s the kind of picture that communicates a thousand words, and something that would surely signal to a larger audience that MMA is legitimate. It’s hard to think that the UFC won’t try to accomplish a massive event like this within the next two years; either with GSP in Canada or BJ Penn in Hawaii.

Ratings

Expect the ratings late this week or early next.

Business Story Lines

Kid Yamamoto and Masanori Kanehara put on perhaps the fight of the night with a spirited back and forth affair. It would appear that Kid will have to re-tool his game in order to compete in the more well-rounded and competitive bantam and featherweight divisions. His ability to draw in Japan – and the appeal of him crossing the pond to fight in the WEC – will now be called into question. However, his lack of wrestling/ground game could fuel the fire for him to join a camp like Xtreme Couture.

Alistair Overeem looked impressive, but faced a clearly over-matched opponent in Fujita. He remains committed to K-1 until late March, but Strikeforce has been adamant about getting him into the cage in time for their CBS show in April. The organization would then look to setup a bout between the behemoth and Fedor Emelianenko on PPV later in the year.

This strategy isn’t without its risk, however. Not only might there be issues surrounding the status of Overeem’s contract in the future, but the swirling allegations surrounding PED use at Overeem’s gym in Holland are also a concern. Strikeforce could invest a lot of time and money in this big fight – not really having any other clear alternative at this point – and then have it crumble as the result of a contract or a bad test. There’s always some risk involved in any fight, but it seems to be heightened in this case.

Gegard Mousasi mentioned about a week ago that he’d likely be a part of the Strikeforce card in April, which bodes well for the CBS event that’s already likely to feature Fedor and Henderson.

Shinya Aoki was very impressive, but the lack of respect he displayed at the end of the fight took away from the performance. It was reminiscent of Lesnar’s antics after the Mir fight, only worse because Aoki was taunting a downed opponent that wasn’t getting up any time soon.

On one hand, these gestures at the end of the fight are the types of thing that MMA’s opposition – or even the fence sitters – look at and use as ammunition as to why the sport is brutal savagery.  On the other hand, it’s something that a promotion can use to fuel interest in a fighter – people like to see bad guys get beat.

Melvin Manhoef is always so impressive on his feet. It’s a real shame that he’s stated he has no desire to work on the ground, because he could be a force in MMA with some solid take down and ground defense. That’s the real danger as a promoter, too: the guy wants big bucks, but you risk flushing that investment down the drain. Manhoef is far too one-dimensional and that just doesn’t cut it in MMA anymore.

Fields Dynamite: Dream vs. Sengoku Finalized

December 28, 2009

The last major card of the year, Fields Dynamite: Dream vs. Sengoku, has been finalized with the addition of Melvin Manhoef vs. Kazuo Misaki and will air on NYE morning in North America on HDNet. The 11 fight event will feature five Dream vs. Sengoku matches, in addition to the final of the Super Hulk tournament.

Sherdog’s event coverage if you haven’t already read up on the event:

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto vs. Masanori Kanehara
Satoshi Ishii vs. Hidehiko Yoshida
Shinya Aoki (No. 2 LW) vs. Mizuto Hirota (No. 9 LW)
Alistair Overeem vs. Kazuyuki Fujita
Melvin Manhoef vs. Kazuo Misaki
Tatsuya Kawajiri (No. 5 LW) vs. Kazunori Yokota
Hayato “Mach” Sakurai vs. Akihiro Gono
Hiroyuki Takaya vs. Michihiro Omigawa (No. 6 FW)
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hiroshi Izumi
Marlon Sandro vs. Hideo Tokoro
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Ikuhisa Minowa

Now, according to Dave Meltzer early indications are fairly positive for the show in Japan, which bodes well for this last second alliance between former competitors. It might also be a good sign for the future of MMA in Japan as discount store Don Quijote is rumored to be interested in acquiring FEG’s MMA division which includes Dream and K-1.

The New Year’s Eve advance is strong largely due to the Masato retirement. They’ll draw 35,000 at the Saitama Super Arena for the show, which will be the biggest MMA crowd of 2009.

Rumour: Don Quijote to Buy FEG's MMA Division

November 27, 2009

Zeus Tipado of MiddleEasy.com discusses the plans for a Japanese discount store to purchase FEG’s MMA division, which includes Dynamite!! and Dream.

Now it’s being reported that the president of Don Quijote, Yasuda, set up a meeting between FEG to enable this Sengoku vs. Dream co-promotion as an attempt to strengthen Japanese MMA. Initially, Sadaharu Tanikawa planned on letting Sengoku fail and then scooping up as many fighter contracts as possible (including Ishida). However now it looks like FEG’s MMA division may be in trouble.

FieLDS, Dynamite!!’s primary sponsor, will not renew their contract next year. Today on NHBNews Pro, it was announced that Don Quijote not only wants to replace FieLDS as Dynamite!!’s primary sponsor…but they want to purchase the entire FEG MMA division (which would include Dynamite!! and Dream). This would mean a chain of discount super-stores will own all of Japanese MMA

Payout Perspective:

There’s a lot of concern right now that MMA in Japan could be in serious trouble, so the emergence of Don Quijote is welcome news (whether they purchase FEG or just sponsor future events).

However, aside from the Japanese MMA point of view, it’s also interesting to look at this entire situation from the perspective of Strikeforce. Scott Coker signed a fighter sharing and promotional partnership with FEG’s Dream last summer; and, via this proposed Dream-Sengoku merger, the value of that partnership is likely to grow. Not only does Dream become more financially stable, but the size of the fighter sharing pool increases.

In fact, regardless of the outcome in Japan, Strikeforce is well-positioned to capitalize. Even if the merger fails, Strikeforce already has well-established ties with the most prized fighting assets in Japanese MMA. They’d likely be first in line to scoop up talents such as Shinya Aoki, Marius Zaromskis, and Melvin Manhoef, etc.

Dream vs. Sengoku on NYE

November 25, 2009

It was officially announced earlier today that Dream and Sengoku will come together on December 31st to promote a mega show in Japan underneath the Dynamite!! banner.

Sherdog’s Tony Loiseleur with the latest:

World Victory Road’s Sengoku Raiden Championships will contribute fighters to Fighting and Entertainment Group’s Dynamite event on New Years Eve at the Super Saitama Arena. FEG president Sadaharu Tanigawa and World Victory Road representative Sumio Inamura confirmed the cooperative effort at a joint press conference on Wednesday at the ANA Intercontinental Hotel.

 

Beyond planning for five to seven bouts dedicated to the Dream-Sengoku crossover theme on Dynamite’s 19-fight bill, no concrete details have been hashed out yet, said FEG’s Tanigawa and Dream event producer Keiichi Sasahara. Fighters participating in the collaboration, as well as rules and weight classes the fights will follow are currently under negotiation between the two promotions.

 

Perhaps most importantly for the Japanese audience, one of those bouts will likely pair Beijing Olympics gold medalist Satoshi Ishii’s MMA debut against Barcelona Olympics judo gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida, in what would have been Sengoku’s headliner for their apparently now-canceled New Year’s Eve effort.

Nightmare of the Battle has more:

FEG’s Tanigawa said that he himself proposed this union event. They started discussing since the end of October. He also said that he doesn’t know what will happen with the FieLDS sponsorship next year.

 

The WVR GM said that the current plan for the next SRC event is March. The fighters participating will be the fighters who have fought there until now.

 

Sasahara said that there will be 18-19 fights on NYE, and there will also be fights between DREAM fighters so it’s not only SENGOKU vs. DREAM on the MMA side. Kawajiri and KID couldn’t attend the press conference because they were out on other business.

 

About SENGOKU only fights (besides Ishii vs. Yoshida) the WVR GM said that it’s yet to be decided if there will be any.

 

Misaki’s participation is also yet to be decided. There will be a meeting about if his suspension will be lifted or not. Misaki himself said: “I want to obey the instruction of the SENGOKU side.”

 

There will be foreign fighters competing as well, but the Japanese fighters will be the focus.

 

Tanigawa wants to match the champions with each other. The rules might depend on the fight.

 

About a future merger, Tanigawa said that Dynamite!! is mainly TBS’s event so there’s nothing like that.

 

The plan is for a double main event but Masato’s fight will probably be last since they’ll have a retirement ceremony after the fight. The event will start at 3 PM.

Payout Perspective

There are currently many doubts as to whether Sengoku will continue to operate as a separate entity in the New Year. It likely depends upon a number of things, but chiefly: how well the NYE event goes and how well the two organizations are able to work together. If they find a great deal of success, they’ll likely continue to run joint-events.

And, really, it’s quite a shame to see the current state of Japanese MMA in such disarray. However, out of turmoil comes opportunity, and these two organizations now have the chance to start a new. They can use the publicity from this announcement to generate some real interest in the event to come. Keep a close eye on the forthcoming announcements, because the fights obviously play a key role in bringing two organizations together like this – if you’re going to have a mega show, you need mega fights.

I’ll also throw in another angle here, and that’s from the perspective of the UFC. They’ve once again established a television deal in Japan, and they’ve made no secret about their intent to hold another card in that market. Dwindling competition may present an opportunity for the UFC to move into the Japanese MMA market a little faster than expected.

Yet, it’s necessary to mention the caveat, here: if MMA continues to struggle in Japan, might its lack of visibility hurt the entrance – or at least make it much more difficult – for a foreign competitor like the UFC? Likewise, if Japanese companies are currently hurting, what about the UFC product is going to make it that much more successful? It’s an interesting angle.

Japanese Drug Testing Cost Prohibitive?

November 4, 2009

Last week, Japanese MMA website Nightmare of the Battle reported on the apparently exorbidant cost of drug testing in Japan:

The managing director of the Japan Muay Thai Federation, which is one of the organizations under the new Japan Martial Arts Federation, talked about this new federation.

 

One thing he said is that doping tests per person cost 370,000 YEN (~4,000 USD). However, organizations affiliated with the Japan Olympic Committee only have to pay 30,000 YEN.

 

It would be really hard for Japanese MMA organizations to pay that amount of money if they wanted to do doping tests. How much does it cost in the U.S.?

 

Anyway, this news has brought up a discussion about the pro organizations affiliated with the JMAF (WVR, Shooto, Pancrase, and ZST). I don’t know if the 30,000 YEN goes for pro organizations as well but this could be one of the reasons that the pro organizations affiliated themselves with the federation.

Payout Perspective:

The newly formed Japanese Martial Arts Federation (JMAF) was ostensibly created to further develop martial arts in Japan. Its members include some of Japan’s biggest MMA promotions including WVR, Shooto, and ZST.

Whether the federation makes any true impact remains to be seen, but if the Managing Director of the Japanese Muay Thai Federation is correct, joining the JMAF may reduce the cost of drug testing for Japanese promotions (if they hadn’t already secured a reduced rate on their own).

Just to give you some comparison: typically, a complete drug test will run an organization $200 per fighter ($35 for drugs of abuse and $165 for a separate steroid panel) in the United States.

Note: this says nothing about whether the Japanese drug tests are actually enforced. It’s one thing to test, it’s another thing to act on the results.

Japanese MMA Event Posters

October 17, 2009

Earlier in the week MMAPayout.com used the release of the UFC 105 poster as an opportunity to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the UFC’s poster design. The common themes among the posters were: 1.) brand focus, 2.) effective background use, 3.) organized presentation, 4.) critical information visible, and 5.) consistency.

To draw a bit of a comparison, I’ve attached some of the posters for Japanese MMA promotions (including Pride, Dream, and Sengoku):

PrideGP 2005                         Pride GP 2006
Pride-32                    d1poster

d2poster                        dream10poster

dream_11_poster                         Sengoku3

sengoku6-poster                             Sengoku9-poster 

Payout Perspective:

It’s important to realize that there exist a number of differences between the American/Western and Japanese consumers that impact how these posters are designed. What’s effective in one market may not be as effective in the other (e.g., Dream 11 might not be a template for North American promotions).

The Japanese posters have some great design concepts, and generally exhibit a higher level of creativity. However, they’re not as consistent at delivering a brand message as some of the UFC posters in the earlier piece. 

Certainly, though, the Pride GP 2006 poster is probably right up there with UFC 94 as one of the coolest posters ever.

Japanese New Years Battle Taking Shape

September 17, 2009

Dave Meltzer writes in the latest Wrestling Observer:

There may be another head-to-head New Year’s Eve battle in Japan, which will be interesting for Americans, because if it does happen, it’s K-1 vs. Sengoku, and HDNet has contracts with both, and both will have to be loaded shows.

 

Sengoku announced a match that could put the sport back on the mainstream map, with the debut of Satoshi Ishii, the 2008 Olympic heavyweight judo gold medalist, facing Hidehiko Yoshida, who captured gold in 1992 at 172 pounds. Even though Yoshida is only 8-7-1, he is one of the biggest MMA draws in Japan, and his face is all over television doing beverage commercials.

 

A network deal would create a very interesting ratings war, with both groups having at least prime attraction main events, since K-1 will headline with its biggest ratings draw, Masato, in his retirement match, and will likely load up with as many of the name fighters they have like Kid Yamamoto, Kazushi Sakuraba, Choi Hong-man, Bob Sapp, Hiroya, Minowa-man, Hideo Tokoro, Melvin Manhoef, Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Bob Sapp.

Payout Perspective:

Sometimes all it takes for an industry to take off and thrive is a little bit of competition. It can raise exponentially higher levels of publicity, which can then be used to generate legitimate interest in the product. Much like MMA, people also like a good, clean, and honest fight between two corporate competitors.

And, MMA fans can only hope that a battle between two organizations is enough to renew the sport of MMA with Japanese fans. Japan is a country steeped in MMA tradition, possesses a great amount of MMA talent, and could potentially act as the launching pad for new, competitive MMA promotions looking to once again challenge the UFC.

The only reservation I have about the idea of concurrent NYE cards is that the state of the Japanese market is pretty fragile. If the extra publicity due to the competition fails to increase the overall size of the MMA viewership on Dec 31, the loser of the ratings battle could be dealt a severe blow.

It’s a risk.

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