In the early part of the new millenium there was one place to go for mixed martial arts; Japan. PRIDE Fighting Championship was the top MMA promotion at the time, with a roster of fighters unparalleled elsewhere. Various areans across the country were packed with fans coming to watch the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva, and Fedor Emelianenko battle one another. Japanese MMA was at the top of its game, a phoenix flying over the rest of the competition, and setting it on fire.
Although PRIDE and JMMA were at the top for a majority of the decade, the flame slowly began to waste away. Financial problems, Yakuza influences, and the growth of the UFC all contributed to the demise of this superpower. Since the death of PRIDE, JMMA has been looking for a variety of promotions to fill its place. Many companies have come and gone, but the two with the most success are undoubtedly DREAM (run by FEG) and Sengoku (run by WVR). The future is dreary for these current JMMA super powers. Like PRIDE before it, the companies are seemingly on the way out thanks to Yakuza intervention and other financial woes. The companies have each experienced difficulties paying their fighters as of late, with the Sengoku even granting releases to fighters who request one. Needless to say, things aren't looking good in the land of the rising sun. In order to save mixed martial arts in Japan as we know it, something drastic must be done.
Rather than continuing to promote themselves separately, DREAM and Sengoku need to come to an agreement in which they join forces for the better of both companies. Insanity at it purest? Yes, but it makes too much sense to simply throw under the table. Viewers from all over the world highly enjoyed the co-promotion between the two companies at Dynamite!! 2009 and Soul Of Fight 2010. Both of these NYE cards featured some great fights; including the finale to Sengokus 2010 Welterweight Grand Prix and Shinya Aoki viciously breaking his opponents arm. These events provided the fans with a glimpse of how these two rosters would look pitted against one another. Needless to say they were left craving for more. The combination of the two rosters would provide plenty of great match ups. The new company would be able to throw together a wide variety of events which would keep them busy for most of the calendar year. The work would be practically cut out for match makers; the champions in both companies would face off against one another to unify the belts, while the classes without a champ could hold Grand Prix's to determine who is top dog. Toss in the fact that Strikeforce and FEG have been openly swapping fighters and you've got yourself quite the MMA powerhouse.
As more and more fighters prepare themselves for the move west, fans will have one question on their mind. Will Japanese MMA be able to rise from ashes and reignite the flame that had once burned so brightly before, or is it doomed? We'll simply have to wait and see what happens in the coming months.