With its second show in three months, Dream continues to rebuild and establish itself as a major promotion for Japanese MMA. Among those who have had an opportunity to see these events first hand and evaluate where the promotion can go from here is HDNet commentary member Hans “The Hanslator” Thompson.
“Obviously, I’m very excited to go over for their first showings; it has a huge impact on me professionally and as a fan; but we’re not out of the woods yet,” said Thompson.
“These first couple of shows only drew about seven to eight thousand fans. They were smaller shows with mainly Japanese talent. There’s no telling how much – if anything – these guys are getting paid yet. There’s still trouble with the TV deals and stuff like that. I’m excited, but I’m cautiously optimistic.”
As Thompson told MMAWeekly.com, it’s Dream’s upcoming events that could lay the true foundation for the promotion’s future.
“We’ll have to judge Dream’s ability as a promotion by the show in September, and then Dynamite is always a big one,” said Thompson. “If they can put together a big card on Dynamite, they might be able to rebound into the next year.”
Still, Thompson was impressed by the promotion’s latest event, held on July 16, and by the fighters on the card who stepped up and could very well spearhead Japan’s increased efforts to compete against the American-dominated MMA scene.
“I was pretty entertained by it, and I thought there was a lot of good storylines on there,” he said.
“Having not performed well in the States, it seems that there are some fighters that have a chance to take on the American-style fighters, so I’m excited about that.
“With their performances in Strikeforce, it has caused people to underestimate Japanese MMA. There are some guys I think who can compete, but they just haven’t had good showings in the U.S. Maybe they (can seek to compete with the) UFC in the long-term, but right now, even just being able to compete in the unified rules in general (is paramount).”
Two fighters from the event in particular that Thompson feels could be ready to spearhead the Japanese movement are Hideo Tokoro and Hiroyuki Takaya.
“Tokoro’s always been a talented fighter, but it would have been easy for him to fall into the trap of being the (understudy) to (Masakazu) Imanari,” said Thompson. “He always respected Imanari coming up, but he wasn’t intimidated by him and took the fight to him.
“Takaya stopped (Kazuyuki) Miyata, who was on an absolute tear at featherweight. He’s got a great base and wrestling defense, which can counter some of the top American wrestlers. Not to say he’d be a champion in the U.S., but he can be a tough guy who can battle and be a Japanese fighter who is very difficult to beat.”
Thompson himself has undergone a transition from being in the background of HDNet’s broadcast team to a full-fledged commentator with the help of one of his partners.
“I have to thank Michael Schiavello for that,” said Thompson. “He’s been more proactive in bringing me in and asking me questions and things like that. I appreciate it and I enjoy the commentator role.
“As we’ve worked together, I’ve gotten more of a relationship, and Michael and Frank (Trigg) realize that I’ve been in this sport a long time and I know a fair amount about it. Because I’ve lived in Japan, I’ve trained in Japan, I can read Japanese interviews and blogs and stuff like that, so I have more insight into Japanese atmosphere and what fighters are like.”
Thompson’s increased role has not only increased in HDNet’s Japanese coverage, he’s also been working hard behind the scenes on the company’s domestic assets like Titan FC and Legacy Fighting. Still, his heart remains in Japan, and he’s excited for what Dream has upcoming throughout the rest of 2011.
“I’m really looking forward to the Sept. 24 card because this looks like the first ‘real’ Dream card,” concluded Thompson. “They’re trying to find big fights on it. Dynamite is a huge spectacle, and I expect to be in Japan for New Years for the event. That’s what I’m looking forward to.
“You can find me on Twitter @hanslator or find me on Facebook. I’m usually pretty responsive to messages and I’m always excited to get a chance to discuss MMA with the audience.”