by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
In a move that will have huge ramifications on the future landscape of the MMA scene in Japan, Fuji TV has officially announced that it has cancelled its television contract with Dream Stage Entertainment, the owners of Pride.
This decision is effective immediately, as Pride has already been removed from Fuji TV’s web site, and the Pride Bushido show that was scheduled to air on Fuji TV next week has been removed from the network’s schedule.
Pride events will continue to air in Japan on the satellite-based pay-per-view station Sky PerfecTV, but that is a drastically lower-profile network than Fuji TV. The Fuji contract provided Pride with millions and millions of dollars per year.
In a statement, a public relations representative for Fuji TV said, roughly translated into English, “An incident which interrupts [our ability] to continue our relationship occurred in the agency [Pride]. It was violation of our contract.”
Fuji TV did not get specific about the “incident” in question, but it is being widely speculated that it has something to do with the Yakuza scandal that has engulfed the MMA industry in Japan.
The weekly publication Shukan Gendai reported just last week that Fuji TV was considering the option of cutting its ties to Pride, but Fuji TV flatly denied the story at the time by saying, “Fuji TV is not considering stopping the broadcasts of Pride events.” Less than a week later, it turns out that the reports about the contract termination were correct.
Pride has not announced any plans to legally challenge Fuji TV’s termination of the contract, but such a move would be futile because the company’s contract with Fuji TV was already set to expire in September 2006 and had not been renewed. So, even if Pride were to theoretically obtain a court ruling stating that Fuji TV cannot terminate its contract with Pride prematurely, Fuji TV could then choose to simply not renew the contract when it expires in September.
Fuji TV had aired Pride on its network since 2000 and was on-board to air Pride’s huge New Year’s Eve shows, starting with the first Pride New Year’s Eve show on December 31, 2003, where Royce Gracie fought Hidehiko Yoshida to a time-limit draw in the main event.
On December 31st of last year, Pride won the head-to-head New Year’s Eve ratings battle with K-1 for the first time, in what would turn out to be the final Fuji TV airing of the Pride New Year’s Eve show.