by Taro Kotani – MMAWeekly.com
Recently in Tokyo, World Victory Road Inc. (WVR) and Japan Mixed Martial Arts Federation (JMM) were introduced at a press conference to rejuvenate the Japanese mixed martial arts market.
Naoya Kinoshita was named CEO of WVR. He is a successful business figure in Japan. As the chairman for the Kinoshita Group, a Japanese real estate company, Kinoshita runs various businesses such as constructing and managing apartments and mansions, managing public health care facilities, and manufacturing furniture.
His connection with MMA remains cloudy since no further information has been revealed. But like he mentioned at the press conference, his desire to bring life back to Japanese MMA as a loyal fan and his experience as an acknowledged businessperson will likely play a key role in his new challenge.
With respect to the JMM, Tomiaki Fukuda was named President and Takao Yasuda was named Vice President of the sanctioning body. Unlike Kinoshita, Fukuda and Yasuda have spent significant amounts of time in the world of MMA.
Fukuda, who also serves as the President of the Japan Wrestling Federation and Vice President for the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), made an appearance at the Pride Fighting Championships show which took place on New Year’s Eve 2004. He made an announcement that FILA and Pride would be forming an alliance allowing wrestlers to compete in MMA. Since then, FILA sent Aliev Makhmud for Pride 29 and two time Olympic bronze medalist Eldari Kurtanidze for Shockwave 2006.
Fukuda has made comments on various occasions that there are no barriers between professional and amateur wrestlers, stressing that any wrestler can compete in MMA and return to wrestling at their will.
Yasuda, another successful business figure, is the Chairman of the gigantic Japanese retail chain Don Quijote. Educated at Keio University, one of the top ranked schools in Japan, Yasuda was an amateur boxer when he was in college. His boxing skills improved vastly. But his dreams of turning pro came to an end when he realized that he had almost lost sight in his left eye from his childhood fights. Realizing that clear eyesight is a requirement for professional boxers, he then turned over to the world of business.
Yasuda started his career as a real estate agent. The company folded in his second year and he decided to start his own business. He opened a store selling miscellaneous products at a cheap price.
Yasuda started his business with no knowledge, no experience, and no partners. As he continued, he visited every partner by himself and he worked through the night to purchase and display the products. The business grew drastically and is now known as Don Quijote. Offering food, clothing, cosmetics, video games, shoes, and a myriad of other goods, don Quijote’s stocks are now traded publicly.
Yasuda was also cooperative when Pride lost their television contract in June of 2006, sponsoring Pride events. Nobuyuki Sakakibara, former CEO at Dream Stage Entertainment (Pride’s former parent company), mentioned Yasuda’s name in his final speech before resigning saying that he was thankful for his support.
Having experience as a fighter and as a businessman, Yasuda brings unique experience to JMM. He understands exactly how hard the professional fighters are working out to prepare for fights. He also has the knowledge of how hard it is to run a business. He may be one of very few who could provide leadership and understanding as a fighter and as a businessman.
The downward spiral of Pride left a gaping hole in Japan’s MMA scene. These leaders of WVR and JMM have now accepted the challenge of filling the void. Only time will tell if they are successful.