Can the UFC Succeed in Japan?

via 4.bp.blogspot.com

UFC President Dana White has spoken publicly of his plans to put on a UFC event in Japan. The promotion hasn't been to the Land of the Rising Sun since UFC 29 in December 2000. In 2007, UFC parent company Zuffa bought Pride Fighting Championship and announced plans to continue running Pride events, but they gave up within the year and killed the promotion.

Since the collapse of Pride, the Japanese MMA market has imploded, both Dream and Sengoku have lost their TV contracts. Japan, the market that was the gravitational center of MMA from 2000-2007 has now become an afterthought in the international MMA business.

Zach Arnold and Jordan Breen talked about the prospects for the UFC in Japan and Zach elaborated on the conversation at Fight Opinion:

Jordan calls the idea of UFC running a show in Japan as a ‘vanity show' and I agree with him. Japan is no longer a substantial MMA market to make money in. There's a reason you see One FC and Legend FC running in Macau, in Singapore (I predicted that specific area a couple of years ago would see substantial activity because of what the country offers), and in Hong Kong.

The primary reason I stated that UFC would be interested in running in Japan is to basically placate egos in management that want to kill the meaning of PRIDE in their heads. I said this to Jordan and I stick by it - Dana White and company still mark out over PRIDE in 2011 and magnify an imaginary feud with PRIDE to this day. It's a ghost and it's almost as if wanting to run a show in Japan is to prove to the Japanese that PRIDE was nothing, that their rules suck, and that UFC is superior to PRIDE. PRIDE is dead, so it shouldn't matter. With that said, I don't believe for one second that UFC isn't interested in running in Japan in order to continue with the fixation of proving that the foreign power is best and that foreign fighters are better than Japanese fighters. Again, it doesn't matter if it's truthful or not, if you're a Japanese fan why do you want to watch natives get buried to foreigners you've never seen on television and never will largely care about?

There is a great romance that people who have spent many years in the MMA business have with Japan as far as what it meant and still try to project recent history with what the current landscape really is like.

I have to respectfully disagree with Arnold here in one respect. I don't think that Dana White, Joe Silva and the Ferttitas want to bury Japanese MMA. I believe those guys are as much marks for the memory of the greatness that was Japanese MMA during the boom. They want to recapture some of that excitement, not kill it. 

Nevertheless, it seems that the momentum in Asian MMA is in Macau and Hong Kong, not Japan.

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