K-1 Running Out of Time for Dynamite 2010

The days when Bob Sapp vs Yoshihiro Takayama could draw enormous Japanese TV audiences are long gone.

The blockbuster Japanese MMA New Year's Show is a tradition going back nine years to Antoni Inoki's Inoki Bom Ba Ye in 2001. Since the fall of Pride, K-1/FEG have had the field to themselves. Traditionally all the stops are pulled out to present the biggest MMA and kickboxing spectacle humanly possible. 

Dave Meltzer talked about the tradition a couple of years back:

That was significant because one of Japan's great television traditions is the NHK network's New Year's Eve concert. Unlike in the U.S., where people go out to celebrate New Year's, in Japan nearly everyone stays home for what is the most important television night of the year, and the concert is their version of the Super Bowl, the show that everyone watches.

After the televised success in 2001, the 2002 Inoki Bom Ba Ye on New Year's Eve was headlined by Sapp against Yoshihiro Takayama. The two finished first and second a few weeks earlier for Pro Wrestler of the Year in Japan, and were put on as the headline event on television. The closest thing to a U.S. equivalent would be if Hulk Hogan and The Rock were put in the ring and fought (for real) on a show that was presented by UFC and featured stars from HBO boxing all on the same night. Sapp-Takayama did a 24.5 rating, with Sapp winning quickly via armbar. From that point on, the biggest fighting show of the year became traditional for New Year's Eve.

By 2003, the success of the Sapp-Takayama show was such that three different networks wanted the show. Pride and K-1 split, and Inoki went his own way. The three shows drew 25,000 to 35,000 fans each. It turned out to be the most important night in Japanese MMA history, and not because Sapp and Akebono, for the three minutes of their fight, beat the concert in the ratings.

This year it appears that the tradition may be sputtering to a halt. Zach Arnold breaks it down:

The deadline is approaching for K-1 this week to get everything in order if there is going to be a Dynamite show taking place at Saitama Super Arena. December is already approaching and there is still no official word regarding a television contract between Tokyo Broadcasting System & K-1 for what has been traditionally Japan's biggest yearly fighting show. If TBS does not offer substantial money to K-1 to produce a NYE event, the question is not whether the Dynamite show will lose money... but just how much will be lost.

There are multiple scenarios on the table. The worst of all worlds would involve K-1 paying TBS for television time. Another bad outcome would be K-1 receiving little or no money (bartering), which would prohibit the promotion from being able to spend the kind of money needed to book big-name talent to pop a big TV rating. If a deal between K-1 and TBS falls apart, K-1 could very well find themselves in a scenario where they run a DREAM-type no-TV event.

(This is the current conventional wisdom amongst some Japanese insiders I've talked to over the weekend.)
The long-term survival prospects for K-1 will be largely determined by how well the 12/11 Ariake Colosseum and 12/31 Saitama Super Arena shows do business-wise. If they are money losers, the promotion will be on its last legs. If the shows can somehow break even or make a little money, then life goes on.

This could be a very sad end to a glorious decade of Japanese MMA. 

DREAM Dynamite!! 2010 coverage

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