Women's MMA Finding New Life in Japan?

Could be. Jordan Breen reports:

GCM's Valkyrie, which will hold its first card on Nov. 8, will not be the only all-female fight promotion in Japan, as from the ashes of Smackgirl, newly formed parent company Marvelous Japan has announced its own upstart organization, Jewels.

Yuichi Ozono, an executive from Japanese event production company Archery Inc. will lead Marvelous Japan. After learning of the languishing Smackgirl and its business woes, Ozono formed Marvelous Japan and acquired the assets and rights formerly belonging to Smackgirl parent company Kilgore.

"I always liked the martial arts, especially Smackgirl, and when I read that they were in trouble, I wanted to find out the truth," Ozono said. "I met with [former Smackgirl President Motoki] Shino and heard that it was impossible for the promotion to continue, so I proposed to him to let me take over the promotion. After several discussions, we reached an agreement, and he gave me the management team of Smackgirl."

Smackgirl itself was born out of another promotion's death. The watershed, all-female promotion ReMix lasted only two events but eventually was transformed into Smackgirl in May 2001. Smackgirl went on to promote over 50 MMA and grappling events featuring a large crop of the sport’s top women.

However, over its seven-year run, Smackgirl acquired considerable debt, and, earlier this year, parent company Kilgore was plagued with the unexpected departure of major sponsors and television network deals, leaving the promotion in a terminal situation. Smackgirl was originally set to stage its 2008 ReMix tournament finale card on July 24 but was forced to postpone the event twice before ultimately throwing in the towel.

“Smackgirl's name was tarnished with all the postponements and sponsor troubles,” said Ozono. "I thought if we changed the name and made a fresh start, it would let us develop.”

Jewels will also have a strong working relationship with Deep, which may foster the participation of sterling female competitors, such as Deep female champions Satoko Shinashi and Miku Matsumoto.

One need not get overly excited about any of the news, but it is comforting to see women's MMA has come back from the brink. With the death of EliteXC stateside and up until recently only Valkyrie being announced as an all-female promotion in Japan, that didn't leave a great deal of opportunities for women short of the return of small Hook N' Shoot or DEEP-operated shows. While there are still problems of weight class structures, too few stars, and genuine hierarchy it's nevertheless comforting to see the women's MMA scene in Japan is getting new life breathed into it.

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