by Scott Petersen – MMAWeekly.com
MMAWeekly.com Executive Editor Scott Petersen sat down with FEG CEO Sadaharu Tanikawa – FEG is the parent company of K-1 – to discuss K-1′s emergence onto the American mixed martial arts scene, relations with UFC President Dana White, the newly formed K-1/Pro Elite alliance, and much more.
FEG, INC. AND THE K-1 AND HERO’S BRANDS
“It’s an entity that runs K-1′s heavyweights named MAX and than the other MMA division is called Hero’s. K-1 and Hero’s, I’d like to market in a different concept. Since I’m the CEO and president of this company and it appears on both brands, it may be confusing, but ultimately I would like to have a different face as a front man for each division or each brand. And with Hero’s it may be better that there is somebody else as the spokesperson. K-1 is already broadcast in 130 countries worldwide, and the goal of K-1 is to throw like a World Cup like soccer, in that direction.”
ENTERING THE AMERICAN MARKET
“A couple of years ago, we understood that the biggest market became the United States and therefore we would like to base Hero’s in the United States and challenge in the United States. Japan was very strong in terms of promotions for MMA, but since a few years ago, since UFC became very strong, the market is there. Although I am not Dana White, I’d still like to face the challenge of competing in the United States.”
DISCUSSING IF THE HERO’S NAME WILL STAY THE SAME
“First of all, the name is Hero’s America. We’d like to use Hero’s America as a brand name. To start off with this promotion, we wanted to used Dynamite which is our biggest show that we do at the end of the year.”
REGARDING THE NEW FACE OF HERO’S AMERICA.
“We would like to find someone like Mr. Dana White, who is a great promoter. We would like an American person to represent or be the face of Hero’s.”
ASKED IF HE HAD ANY IDEAS OF WHO THAT PERSON COULD BE
“We have a few people in mind, but if you have anybody in mind please introduce me to them. On the Japan side, if Mr. Sakakibara is out of a job we may want him to represent Hero’s in Japan.”
RESPONSE TO DANA WHITE SAYING EVERYONE OTHER THAN UFC/PRIDE ARE JOKES
“Dana White, it is very interesting to see him promote.”
WHAT’S THE PLAN AFTER THE START WITH SHOWTIME IN JUNE? WILL THE ALLIANCE WITH ELITE PRO WILL REMAIN OR SEPERATE?
“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. As for the amount of events, we’re thinking maybe four times a year in the United States.”
REQUEST FOR MATT HUGHES TO FIGHT IN K-1 IN EXCHANGE FOR ROYCE GRACIE FIGHTING HUGHES IN THE UFC.
“I sent an email to Dana White, and sent my gratitude for playing catch with me. I have granted his request to have Royce Gracie fight in the UFC last year. I was happy to hand out Royce Gracie, therefore I asked Mr. Dana White to lend out Matt Hughes for the June 2nd event. For a man of his caliber, we expected that he would turn about as a gentleman’s binding pact.”
WHY MATT HUGHES?
“Revenge for Royce.”
[The UFC has since announced that Matt Hughes and Matt Serra will be coaching The Ultimate Fighter Season 6 and then face each other in the Octagon at season's end.]
ON THE PURCHASE OF PRIDE
“You may know this already, but we were assisting Pride with all of their match making for the first five years. Until Mirko made a sudden move departing from K-1 and going to Pride in 2003, until then K-1 and Pride had a very good relationship, therefore I have personal attachment to the brand and I like Pride as a content. 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, a different 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.”
IS HE CONCERNED ABOUT THE RISE IN COMPETITION NOW THAT ZUFFA BASICALLY OWNS PRIDE?
“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.”
WHAT ABOUT THE COMPETITOIN WITH THE FERTITTAS, WHO MAY WANT TO TRY TO TAKE OVER THE JAPANESE MARKET?
“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.”
THE FIRST SHOW IN AMERICA AT THE LA COLISEUM, WHAT’S THE PLAN? “Evidently it is more difficult to gather this many people in one place [the L.A. Coliseum holds nearly 100,000] and we need to put a lot of effort into doing so. One of the reasons we have made the decision to go to that arena is that we have been in contact with various communities. There are about 800,000 Korean nationals residing in Los Angeles. There’s a Japanese community, an Asian community, a Hispanic community, and a Jewish community etc. We have had good relationships with these communities and we were confident enough to make the decision to go into this huge venue.”
DISCUSSING THE EVENT….
“Every single fight, with every match up, there will be a meaning behind it. We would like to make this whole card international, and also, at the same time, appeal to the hardcore fan. We would definitely like to throw match ups that would alert Mr. Dana White and as fans, have the Fertitta brothers enjoy it. We’d like to create that type of an event.”
THE PRO ELITE, CAGE RAGE, K-1, ETC ALLIANCE AND WHAT ATTRACTED THEM TO JOIN SUCH AN ALLIANCE?
“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 tried to steal each other’s fighters. We have not seen it grow in the industry and anyway in that sense. 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.”
THE ISSUED OFFER FOR DANA WHITE TO JOIN THE ALLIANCE, HAS IT BEEN ANSWERED?
“We have given it thoughts and if UFC is interested in joining it would not be an alliance anymore. It would be a commission.”
WILL HERO’S EVER BECOME THE SAME PRIORITY AS K-1?
“Priority doesn’t change at all, but the motivation behind promoting each sport is different. K-1, I’d like to make it a true sport. There’s not that much competition out there. I would like to make it a general sport that anybody would know. The idea behind this is K-1 is not mainly an organization. It’s a sport. Hero’s USA on the other hand is an MMA organization.”
DO YOU SEE A FUTURE COMMISSION WITH UNIFICATION OF BELTS?
“I don’t know for sure if that would happen or not, but it would be better to have such a system. I wish that type of system would actually happen.”
WANDERLEI SILVA, PAULO FILHO, AND FEDOR AREN’T UNDER CONTRACT OR SOON TO BE NOT UNDER CONTRACT, WHAT IS THE INTEREST IN BRINGING THEM IN K-1?
“We’re very interested.”
IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU WANT TO HAVE AN OPEN RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS AND WORKING TOGETHER
“That is correct — I have no problem with any of these organizations.”