Photo by Masa Fukui for Sherdog
Desperation often precedes the final collapse. On February 10th, as protests in Egypt entered their third week, rumors leaked that President Hosni Mubarak would resign. Instead, fueled by advice from his son, Gamal, Mubarak announced that he would continue to hold office until September elections.
Vice President Omar Suleiman announced Mubarak's official resignation a day later.
Despite what some people want to believe, the MMA scene in Japan is inching closer to its death rattle every day. Alistair Overeem and Gesias Cavalcante both claim FEG, parent company of K-1 and Dream, owe them money. World Victory Road lost Dave Herman, Ronnie Mann, and middleweight champion Jorge Santiago. Shooto is in the midst of a tax scandal. Attendance is dwindling and TV ratings are falling. Complete and total irrelevancy are within sights.
Today, Daniel Herbertson reports that an old friend is looking to re-enter the Japanese MMA game:
Rumors were flying in Japan this week via Japanese outlet Miruhon that former Pride FC President Nobuyuki Sakakibara, former Pride director and vice president, and the man behind DREAM Hiroyuki Kato and former Sengoku event producer, Astra and J-Rock boss Takahiro Kokuho are planning on uniting for a one-off event to be held this spring.
Independent sources have confirmed to MMA Fighting that an event is indeed being discussed and currently it will be an all-Japanese show to be held sometime in the Spring at a venue around the size of the 3,000-seat JCB Hall, although specifics are still quite rough.
For the uninitiated, Sakakibara was the man at the helm when Pride crumbled at the hands of a yakuza scandal in 2006. It's a long and complicated situation with many players, but the tipping point came after Seiya Kawamata booked Fedor Emelianenko for the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye show in 2003. Fight Opinion has the details (and is a must-read for anyone interested in what started the downfall of MMA overseas):
Meanwhile, Kawamata was having his own troubles before and after the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye show. According to Kawamata in Shukan Gendai magazine, he was allegedly receiving threats from DSE yakuza for booking Fedor. After the Inoki show, Kawamata was summoned to a building in Shizuoka where he was threatened for blackmail money - by his own yakuza gang members, who turned on him and supposedly were friendly now to DSE. Kawamata ended up leaving Japan and there were some angry people.
According to Shukan Gendai, Mijatovic was summoned to a hotel room meeting where a gun was allegedly pointed to his head and was warned about crossing DSE. Mijatovic's relationship with Red Devil started to deterioriate as Sakakibara and PRIDE started to get closer to Vadim and Fedor. Eventually, Mijatovic left the MMA business and focused his business activities on Japan's lucrative love hotel sector (raising capital to buy properties and renovate depressed areas).
Sakakibara has been running a soccer team in Japan since Pride stopped running shows in 2007. Unsurprisingly, Sakakibara's yakuza ties have prevented the club from joining the J-League, Japan's top soccer league.
It makes one wonder why anyone would be willing to do business with such a toxic character like Sakakibara. The yakuza situation in Japan is a strange one, and it reminds me of steroids in sports in America. It's generally assumed that most athletes are on something they shouldn't be, but it's only when someone tests positive that leads to any sort of outrage. (Unless you're a football player where you receive a four-game suspension and it's never discussed again.) In Japan, it sounds like it is generally accepted that the yakuza controls most of the nation's industries, but one must bear the burden of shame forever if linked to the crime organization. But I am not an expert on such matters.
The fact that there are even discussions of a show involving Sakakibara highlight just how desperate the situation in Japan has become.
If you have any sort of interest in Japanese MMA, I highly recommend you check out the links above.