Fighting and Entertainment Group (FEG), parent company of Dream and K-1, held a press conference in Tokyo on Friday to announce a newly-formed partnership with Chinese investment group Puji Capital. Denying rumors of a possible sale, FEG officials say they will continue to run day-to-day operations while Puji works to raise funds and expand FEG's brands internationally. The deal could reportedly net the struggling promotion upwards of $200 million USD.
MMA Fighting's Daniel Herbertson reports:
K-1 President Sadaharu Tanikawa stressed that FEG had not been sold and in fact it will now be setting its sights much higher.
"This is a declaration of war against the WWE and UFC. From Asia, we will take the world," Tanikawa stated.
"When K-1 and PRIDE were competing against each other, 80% of the martial arts market was in Japan. It is now the opposite and Japan is only 20%. We were worried that Japan would be left behind if we let this continue, it is unacceptable. We needed to change our business model... We've let Dana White get a lead on us. Before (Shinya) Aoki beats (Gilbert) Melendez, we must win as promoters."
Tanikawa's "declaration of war" feels like fairly transparent promotional bluster -- especially since Puji's Michael Chen would go on to describe the American market as "too developed and not lucrative" enough to delve into during the same press conference -- but the acknowledgment that FEG had been operating on a losing business model is a step in the right direction.
As Zach Arnold notes, the Puji money should help FEG offer its fighters more competitive purses, but this is a plan we'll need to observe in action for some time before fully understanding how (or if) it can truly succeed.
UPDATE: Nightmare of Battle reports on the reaction from FEG's foremost Japanese competitor, Sengoku:
SRC PR & Director Mukai tweeted on the 16th (after the FEG global domination press conference): “We’ll always take the “kenjitsu (steady, sound) kenzen (health)” (slowly but surely I guess) route.
It’ll be interesting to see how FEG’s aggressive route will go compared to WVR’s building slowly (almost) from scratch route.
The companies also released this graphic today, which vaguely outlines the plan for expansion:
For obvious reasons, FEG and Puji will first look to tackle the Asia/Oceania market. Officials said that they're interested in bringing MMA to South Korea on an annual basis, but also noted that the country's GDP is not as high as Japan's. (Dream was forced to cancel a planned South Korean show this past spring, reportedly due to lack of available stars and slow ticket sales.) Hong Kong, meanwhile, has a higher GDP than that of Japan, but even less interest when it comes to MMA.