- A WORD FROM THE ASIAN SENSATION…

December 2, 2006
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by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
…forgettable.

for·get
v. for·got, for·gotten, for·getting
for·get·ta·ble, adjective

1. to cease or fail to remember; be unable to recall: to forget someone’s name.
2. to omit or neglect unintentionally: I forgot to shut the window before leaving.
3. to omit mentioning; leave unnoticed.

In Tokyo, Japan, another ZST has come and gone. ZST 11…yes it was forgettable. Not that all of the fights were bad, but the event was forgettable due to its significance. Of the eight scheduled fights, seven of them went to a draw. Yes, I said seven. Congratulations to Kenji Nagai for actually finishing his opponent, thus preventing a shut-out full of indecisiveness (no thanks to ZST’s rules).

Now for those who don’t watch ZST very often, fights going to a draw aren’t uncommon. In ZST, there are no judges and fights that last the full time limit are ruled a draw. As an exception, decisions can occur during tournament events.

ZST 11 Full Results:

Fight #1:
Kenichi Ito and Emerson Azuma fought to a draw.

Fight #2:
Kenji Nagai defeated Hiroshi Oyaizu by TKO Round 2 0:48

Fight #3:
Petras Morkevicius and Nobutatsu Suzuki fought to a draw.

Fight #4:
Hiroyuki Ito and Masayuki Okude fought to a draw.

Fight #5:
Kentaro Imaizumi and Shuichiro Katsamura fought to a draw.

Fight #6 (ZST Tag Team Match):
Hideo Tokoro / Barret Yoshida and Shinya Sato / Wataru Inatsu fought to a draw.

Fight #7 (GT-F Grappling Match):
Takumi Yano and Rubens Charles fought to a draw.

Fight #8 (Vale Tudo Match):
Naoyuki Kotani and Erikas Peitras fought to a draw.

I think it’s about time for ZST to re-evaluate their rules. Fans will agree that the many stalemates are getting rather old. If the organization wants to be known as more than just a stepping stone, they need to implement judges.

I must applaud ZST for continuing to bring in more amateur fighters but I’m having a hard time taking them seriously if they don’t make a significant change in the near future. The organization that brought us Remigijus Morkevicius, Hideo Tokoro, Takumi Yano, and Masakazu Imanari may slowly be falling into mediocrity.

PRIDE TO END BUSHIDO

In a recent issue of Gong Magazine, Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara announced that the company will focus its attention on Pride’s ‘numeric’ shows in 2007. Moreover, Sakakibara stated that their popular Bushido brand has been discontinued and will be combined with the regular Pride show in the future. DSE plans to continue using the Bushido name for events held outside of Japan and the U.S. It was not specified if the lighter weight fights would adopt Pride’s 3-round system as opposed to Bushido’s two.

DSE originally created Bushido to showcase the lighter weight classes. Since its debut in 2003, Bushido has garnered a large following and has lately been more revered by fans than the regular Pride show. In my opinion, Bushido 9 is still the best MMA event I have ever seen and has yet to be surpassed.

News of Bushido’s imminent end has saddened loyal fans. Fans angered by the announcement must realize that this was probably a logistical move by the company and does not mean the end of the lighter weight classes. From a business perspective, the Bushido shows didn’t draw in the live crowd like Pride’s regular shows have and gate sales are still one of their main sources of revenue. Many fans will miss the Bushido cards that consisted of up to fourteen fights. However, keep in mind that there will be more regular Pride shows planned for 2007. With more opportunities to showcase the lighter weight classes, it would also expose the fighters to larger venues and larger crowds.

Although I will miss the Bushido shows, I think the merger is a good thing. The lighter weight classes will balance out the events and provide a boost to what the regular Pride shows have been lacking of late. Prior to this merger, the only time fans could see an event consisting of all weight classes was at Pride’s Shockwave show, which only occurred once a year. Combining all the weight classes into one event will help reduce the amount of ‘filler’ or ‘freak show’ fights and create better overall shows.

Sure, the merger of the two shows may be a sign of financial trouble and could symbolically mean a step backwards. However, I think it’s better for the organization in the long run and will allow Pride to showcase all of their fighters with each and every event. Bushido was created to establish the lower weight classes and it did just that. Now that the show has done its job, it’s time to move on. Knowing that they don’t have the financial backing that they used to, DSE is just evaluating their business plan and working to make Pride more efficient and marketable. With their television setback in Japan, Pride is serious about being successful in the U.S. market and the merger may play an important role.

It’s sad to see the Bushido brand end but it had a great run. The once fledgling offshoot will now be immortalized in MMA history.

GOOD NEWS FROM SAKAKIBARA

In addition to the Bushido’s demise, Nobuyuki Sakakibara announced that Pride will only hold one Grand Prix tournament for each weight class every four years. I think DSE finally realized that fans have been overwhelmed with their recent saturation of tournaments. The news is a welcome change and will free up the current title holders so they can actually defend their belts. In February, Pride will hold another event in the U.S. and current 205-pound champion Wanderlei Silva is expected to defend his title.

Speaking of title holders, Sakakibara stated that there will be at least one title defense on every future ‘numeric’ Pride event. That’s great news. Pride has garnered much criticism for its lack of title defenses so to see DSE addressing the issue affirms the company’s willingness to change for the better. One problem though; with only four champions, how can there consistently be a title defense on each event? Pride plans to possibly hold up to twelve shows in 2007 which may make for a strenuous schedule on their champions. Taking into account the risk of injury, obtaining Visa’s and other known/unknown variables, a title defense at each event may very well be unattainable.

So how is this resolved?

Add more weight classes. I would love to see a featherweight division in Pride. It would give fighters like Hatsu Hioki and Jeff Curran a more suitable home and open the doors for other fighters who wouldn’t normally sacrifice their size to make the lightweight limit. “Lion Takeshi” anyone? A super heavyweight division could also be introduced (saying that made me cringe).

STILL NO TELEVISION DEAL FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE

Time has come and gone since Nobuyuki Sakakibara said there would be a major announcement on Nov. 10th regarding their television situation. The silence could be a grim foreshadowing of the company’s future in Japan. The major television networks in Japan have released their New Year’s Eve schedule and none of them have Pride’s Otoko Matsuri (Shockwave) show listed.

Currently, the event will only be available via SkyPerfect Pay-Per-View. This will greatly limit the event’s exposure. Unlike the U.S., most major MMA events in Japan are aired free on television so its Pay-Per-View market is relatively small. Why pay when you can watch it for free? At this moment, K-1 Dynamite! will have no major MMA ratings competition this year. I guess Pride gambling on Mike Tyson hasn’t paid off yet.

On a positive note, ticket sales for Otoko Matsuri will likely be very good, as history has shown.

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