Ishii is moving to the U.S. at the end of February to start training with American Top Team. He is also planning to train in Brazil with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira as he was invited there by him at UFC 94. He also had some contact with LYOTO (or his father) while there, because of his Japanese origin or something.
And the most important news, Ishii is putting contract negotiations with the UFC on hold for now. As a professional he wants to hear the talk of various organizations. He especially mentioned Affliction and mentioned both Fedor and Sylvia. However, he said that right now the UFC is still the first candidate.
We have an interesting love triangle in the making here. Uno, Gomi, Kid, and Ishii have all been seen at a recent Affliction or UFC event, or are currently in talks with the organizations. What does this all mean?
For one, lets look at Japan. Is the Japanese MMA scene dying out? Why is there all of a sudden a huge interest in fighting in America? Not too long ago, Japanese fighters weren't too interested in coming over seas to fight, but things have suddenly changed. DREAM and Sengoku will be focusing on their FW tournaments this year for one, although a recent announcement of a Shooto/Pancrase/Sengoku alliance to develop new talent and stars is definitely picking up some steam for Sengoku. DREAM has its own "big" news to report as well, scheduled to be announced in the next couple of weeks.
So, is the UFC or Affliction planning a Japanese MMA show? Dana White has made recent announcements indicating that they are going to dive head first into Japan, whether Japan wants it or not. It seems Dana is going after Ishii, Akiyama, Uno, Kid, Gomi, Overeem, and Schilt in order to tackle this tall and improbable task. You can bet some big news will be coming from Sengoku and/or FEG if they start to feel threatened by the UFC. It will also be interesting to see whether the Japanese fans would welcome the UFC, since they were left scorned with how the PRIDE situation was handled.
MMAJunkie reported this interesting quote from Dana White:
"The Japanese market has always been important to me," White said. "It's a very, very, very tough place to navigate and do business. But, [expletive] 'em. We're going to do it anyway. They will not stop me from going into Japan."
On the other hand, it is pretty doubtful that Affliction has any plans of conquering Japan any time soon, but a partnership/relationship with FEG or Sengoku through M-1 Global is definitely not out of the question. Having non exclusive contracts in Japan allows Japanese fighters to fight in both Japan and in Affliction, something the UFC has not been open to doing. Also, Fedor's value in Japan is much more important to the Japanese MMA scene then it is here in the States, which could give that scenario some leverage.