Finally the truth can be told. Ok, so my headline's a little misleading, but this tidbit from Dave Meltzer's excellent article on the Japanese New Year's MMA tradition is very intriguing:
By 2003, the success of the Sapp-Takayama show was such that three different networks wanted the show. Pride and K-1 split, and Inoki went his own way. The three shows drew 25,000 to 35,000 fans each. It turned out to be the most important night in Japanese MMA history, and not because Sapp and Akebono, for the three minutes of their fight, beat the concert in the ratings.
It was because Inoki's group lured Emelianenko, Pride's heavyweight champion, away from Pride to appear on the Inoki show against pro wrestler Yuji Nagata in a quick mismatch. But years later, when allegations came out in a Japanese magazine that Yakuza members connected with Pride had threatened the promoter of the Inoki show for using Fedor, the allegations led to the Fuji Network dropping Pride, and led to the promotion dying, being sold to UFC, and vanishing.
Here's my wish for 2008 -- that MMA can rehabilitate its image in Japan and that at least one promotion will get network coverage of their New Year's Eve 2009 event.
Also don't miss Meltzer's list of the top 10 most watched MMA matches in Japan.