by Scott Petersen – MMAWeekly.com
K-1 had another show this past weekend in Hawaii, but now the attention will be put towards their first mixed martial arts show in the United States on June 2nd. As previously reported, K-1 has joined forces in an alliance with Pro Elite, Cage Rage, etc. and MMAWeekly sat down with K-1 President Sadaharu Tanikawa and discussed this alliance as well as Pride and the UFC.
So what was the attraction for K-1 to work with the other promotions? Tanikawa said, “The whole concept is in regards to fighters mainly. Right now the market is limited and the fighters are benefited, not so much the promoters. The promoters are working hard everyday and we’re doing this as business. We just wanted to associate everybody and have a healthy relationship so that we don’t take anyone else’s fighter and vise versa. To help this industry grow, MMA conversion is not enough for this industry to work. We’ve seen this in Japan when Pride and K-1 were battling each other and trying to steal each other’s fighters. Television channels were fighting against each other as well and it was not a healthy situation for the industry itself. That is why we would like to at least have the doors open so that we can communicate at all times to exchange information and exchange fighters.”
So what about the Ultimate Fighting Championship? The UFC is obviously the biggest promotion in the United States and would be an organization that one would want in their alliance. When asked if the UFC was invited to join the alliance, Tanikawa responded, “We have given it thought, and if the UFC is interested in joining it would not be an alliance anymore. It would be a commission.”
With the Fertittas purchasing Pride, that could have a big change on the MMA scene in Japan and the world. In fact, K-1 co-promoted the biggest show in MMA history with Pride for the 2002 Dynamite event in Japan where over 90,000 people were in attendance. Now Pride, who used to work with K-1, is owned by the same people who own the UFC. “You may know this already, but we were assisting Pride with all of their matchmaking from Pride 5 when the business was going down, during that time. Until Mirko [Cro Cop] made a sudden move and departed from K-1 going to Pride in 2003. Until then K-1 and Pride had a very good relationship, therefore I have a personal attachment to the brand. It’s very unfortunate that Pride was not able to continue what they were doing as they were and were bought out by this huge market. As of now, I do not want to lose in the competition. As Entertainment content, we feel confident in what we create, so the June 2nd event we can show great entertainment. That’s something I guarantee.”
But is K-1 concerned about the rise in competition as the Fertittas now back Pride or is there a chance to see K-1 work with Pride again? It seems like the later could be a possibility. “There will be no competition. There will be a little more harmony between the staff I’d say, the people who used to work for Pride. We’re already starting to be friendly with each other already. Basically, until four years ago, we all used to work together. There may be a possibility to see Hero’s fighters fighting in Pride now.”
When questioned about the competition with the Fertittas who may want to take over the Japanese market, Tanikawa replied, “There might be, as you say, in the beginning, in terms of competition with the Fertitta brothers, but in the long run I don’t feel like there will be competition. As I have mentioned, in the United States, that if you’re not willing to stay in America when you go into America, there will be no success. You could say likewise in Japan as well. If they’re not serious about sitting here in Japan, there will be no success. And honestly the Fertittas, in my opinion, do not understand the market of Japan. In Japan, the fans will not be satisfied with Pride vs. Hero’s anymore. That’s one example of the changes in the mindset of the fans.”
So now we wait for June 2nd to see how Hero’s USA does in it’s first live show in the U.S. MMA market. Tanikawa said that they will probably do 4 shows a year in the U.S., and as for the alliance, “We love to work with everybody, so after working together this time, if we find certain areas where we can work together, we would definitely like to continue to work with them.”