New Years Eve producer Antonio Inoki. via SportsNavi
At last, some positive news for fans of K-1 and Dream. After various cancellations and postponements, it looks like we finally have some real news about two of Japan's biggest yearly events - the New Year's Eve show, and the K-1 Grand Prix.
First up, New Year's Eve. This week, pro wrestling legend and (arguable) MMA pioneer Antonio Inoki announced that he would be staging a major show on December 31 at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan. Inoki will be co-promoting the show with representatives from Dream, and it will be the heir to the Dynamite!! franchise. Because the name Dynamite!! was sold earlier this year, Inoki's show has instead been given the odd name of "Are You Healthy?!! New Year's Eve!! 2011" (Genki Desu Ka!! Omisoka!! 2011 for the Japanese speaking audience).
The card will feature 20 bouts, including a mixture of MMA, K-1 rules kickboxing, and pro wrestling under the banner of Inoki's IGF organization. Initial fight announcements could come any day. The New Year's Eve card is a huge tradition in Japanese MMA, and it's exciting to see it will once again be honored this year.
As for K-1, the news is potentially even bigger. Former K-1 head Kazutoshi Ishii announced the formation of a new organization called FIKA (Federation International K-1 Association) that will serve as a new governing body for K-1. And they are coming out of the gates strong with plans for a full line-up in 2012 culminating in the return of the K-1 Grand Prix.
Plans right now call for a return to the old Grand Prix format of international qualifying events with the winners moving to the finals. Their tentative timeline has the international qualifiers beginning in April 2012, followed by a round of 32 in May or June, a round of 16 in September or October, and the traditional Final 8 in December. They are also planning to keep the same three weight classes last used by K-1 - Heavyweight, 70kg (MAX), and the recently added 63kg.
One final interesting note on FIKA - they are creating their main base of operations in China, not Japan, which has always been home to K-1. It will be interesting to see just what that means for television and sponsorship deals.
Overall, great news all around for fans of the Japanese scene.