Editorial Column by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
1. having ambition; eagerly desirous of achieving or obtaining success, power, wealth, a specific goal, etc.: ambitious students.
2. showing or caused by ambition: an ambitious attempt to break the record.
3. strongly desirous; eager
Back in December, FEG President Sadaharu Tanikawa stated in an interview that K-1 Hero’s would make its U.S. debut in 2007. Now, “Softbank presents Dynamite!! USA in association with ProElite” is finally upon us. The show is scheduled for June 2nd at the L.A. Coliseum.
90,000-plus seats are hard to fill. Even if they scaled the venue down to 70,000, that’s an incredibly ambitious goal for K-1’s first MMA foray in the U.S. The attendance record for an MMA event in the states is a little more than 19,000, set by the Ultimate Fighting Championship at UFC 68 in Columbus, Ohio.
“From the immense popularity of MMA events in the U.S. and our consistent demand overseas, we expect seats at the Coliseum to fill up quickly in the coming weeks,” stated Tanikawa.
First of all, the venue is preposterously large. Making a first impression is important but let’s be realistic here; K-1 may be hard-pressed to sell enough tickets, let alone sell out the venue. It would take a prodigious amount of comp tickets just to fill out the rest of the Coliseum. Now I know what K-1 can do with the life-size cardboard cutouts left over from all of those press conferences.
Tickets have only been available for a little less than a month before the event’s date of June 2nd. Seat prices range from $1000 to $10.
$10 seats? Nosebleeds or not, that is a tempting proposition especially for hardcore fans looking to be part of K-1 history. For FEG to break its own attendance expectations is one thing but the event still needs to be somewhat profitable. Like most companies, I’m sure FEG expects to see a loss in their first venture into the U.S. market.
WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS.
K-1’s upcoming invasion on U.S. soil has not been without its difficulties. Gina Carano pulled out of her scheduled fight against Jan Finney due to an intestinal illness. The entire show was in jeopardy of not taking place after reports surfaced that FEG had not secured a promoter’s license. FEG has since been granted a temporary license.
Originally scheduled to face Brock Lesnar in the main event, Hong-Man Choi was denied a fight license due to medical reasons. A proposed match between Marvin Eastman and Ray Sefo was cancelled.
Antonio Silva has pulled out of his fight against Jonathan Wiezorek due to an undisclosed medical reason. His replacement will be Tim Persey. Slated to face K-1 veteran Siala “Mighty Mo” Siliga, Korea’s Choi Mu Bae has been replaced with Ruben “Warpath” Villareal.
A fight between Katsuhiko Nagata and Ultimate Fighter 5 participant Gabe Ruediger was rejected by the CSAC.
Did I miss anything here? Such complications may have forced other organizations to cancel or fold, but K-1 is moving forward with its U.S. debut.
ENTER K-1’S SAVING GRACE, MR. SAKURABA.
During the Pride 2000 Grand Prix, Kazushi Sakuraba and Royce Gracie faced off in a special “no time limit” match. The fight consisted of 15-minute rounds until a winner was declared. After six rounds, Gracie’s corner threw in the towel due to an injury.
Billed as a co-main event for Dynamite! USA, this anticipated rematch has garnered much attention and is the most intriguing fight of the card. Having experienced some health problems during the last few years, it was speculated if Sakuraba would be able to gain medical clearance to compete in the U.S. Fans and FEG gave a sigh of relief as the “Gracie Hunter” was cleared by the California State Athletic Commission just three days before the event. Had Sakuraba been declined, K-1 Dynamite would have hit rock bottom.
It’s safe to say that both fighters are in the twilight of their respective careers. But even at this late stage, fans are still eager to see these two MMA pioneers meet for a second time. Kazushi Sakuraba has maintained his popularity through the years and his name recognition alone still has plenty of drawing power. As the main focus of K-1’s first MMA show in the U.S. market, Sakuraba vs. Gracie 2 needs to meet or exceed expectations.
SO WHAT CAN FANS EXPECT?
I have never witnessed so many roster changes in a single major event. Obviously some fans will be disappointed that their favorite fighters will no longer be participating at Dynamite! USA. There is still one match that could prove to be very entertaining and may very well steal the show.
K-1 Hero’s 2006 Grand Prix Champion at 154 pounds, Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti, is scheduled to face the always exciting Nam Phan. This match has the potential to be fight of the night. It baffles me as to why K-1 initially chose not to air this fight. Why would they not want to showcase one of their champions against a local favorite? “JZ” is now slated to appear on the Showtime/EliteXC broadcast leading up to the Pay-Per-View.
The Current K-1 Dynamite USA Fight Card:
K-1 on Pay-Per-View
-Brock Lesnar vs. Min Soo Kim
-Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba
-Melvin Manhoef vs. Yoon Dong Sik
-Siala “Mighty Mo” Siliga vs. Ruben Villareal
-Johnnie Morton vs. Bernard Ackah
EliteXC on Showtime Premium Channel
-Jake Shields vs. Ido Pariente
-Tim Persey vs. Jonathan Wiezorek
-Gesias “JZ” Calvancanti vs. Nam Phan
Live at the Coliseum Only
-Hideo Tokoro vs. Brad “One Punch” Pickett
It remains to be seen if K-1 Dynamite! USA will be successful. I have to give K-1 some credit for moving forward with the event after enduring a plethora of difficulties. However, some of those problems stemmed from FEG’s inexperience as an MMA promotion in the U.S. Regardless of Saturday night’s turnout, K-1’s first foray into the American MMA market will prove to be a learning experience.