by Zach Arnold – Fight Opinion
This article comes from Zach Arnold at FightOpinion.com
“Last Saturday night in Holland, Bob Sapp bolted before his scheduled main event with Ernesto Hoost, causing a major firestorm in front of 17,500 fans at the Amsterdam Arena. Sankei Sports, the newspaper affiliated with Fuji TV (which broadcasted the K-1 event), declared that “Sapp ran away” from the fight and issued a boycott against Hoost. The newspaper quoted matchmaker Sadaharu Tanigawa as saying that Sapp “requested unreasonable demands” right before his fight, and that a possible “banishment” or lawsuit could evolve from his actions. Yomiuri Sports had a reporter quoting the ring announcer at the K-1 show talking about Sapp being cowardly and how he left 30 minutes before the main event.
In a press release issued by K-1, Tanigawa mentioned that Sapp is still under contract with K-1 and cannot leave to another organization.
According to a Japanese source in the fight industry, former K-1 boss (and still a powerful figure in the company) Kazuyoshi Ishii was on hand at the Amsterdam Arena show, and not in jail as some people thought. According to our Japanese source, here is a brief summary of what allegedly took place between Bob Sapp and K-1:
Sapp was rumoredly asking somewhere in between $500,000-$600,000 for the fight against Ernesto Hoost, but K-1 had apparently not agreed to this amount. Some insiders in the Japanese fight industry believe that another company may have made a financial offer to Sapp and that this was what led to the fight reconsideration. (Daily Sports notes that DSE/Hustle and WWE are companies that can pay big money if Sapp leaves K-1). On Tuesday, Nikkan Sports printed a statement from DSE that denied any involvement in the matter.
Sapp refused to fight against Hoost (while sporting bandages) and was admonished (either by K-1 or by K-1 Holland event promoter Simon Rutz).
Sapp took the admonishment seriously enough that he had bodyguards arranged for himself in front of his hotel room (Nikkan Sports on Tuesday said that Sapp brought at least two bodyguards with him to the show).
Sapp was seen arguing with K-1 and promotion staff waving around a piece of paper (the contract). The piece of paper being waved around was apparently a contractual release that would have made him a free agent.
Sapp was taken away to a “safe house” after the argument. Yomiuri Sports newspaper noted that Sapp had an issue with not checking into the hotel room that K-1 had designated for him to be at.
Full disclosure: We have placed phone calls to contacts in Seattle to try to find out more about the story, but no success. We did get a hold of one source, but they did not know any details about the situation.
Influential blogger Black Eye has a list of four theories about what he thinks might have happened:
-A contract or visa problem
-DSE or another promotion made an offer and Sapp is heading elsewhere.
-Sapp became scared of fighting Hoost and ran away.
-Sapp was caught doping.
On Tuesday, it was reported in Nikkan Sports that matchmaker Sadaharu Tanigawa would start imposing financial penalties on Sapp if he worked for any other promotion. Tanigawa claimed that Sapp has more than two years left on his K-1 contract, and that any time Sapp works for another promotion, he will have to pay a penalty of 100 million yen (close to $1 million USD) per fight. K-1 noted that all legal discussions are taking place via lawyers at the moment.
Despite the magnitude of this incident, it leads to a much more powerful situation regarding PRIDE, K-1, and Fuji TV (with producer Kunio Kiyohara calling the shots). In the much-talked about yakuza scandal, Kiyohara’s name has been clearly associated with his closeness to DSE President Nobuyuki Sakakibara. K-1 has had an off-again, on-again relationship with Kiyohara and the K-1 promotion has found TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) to be a willing partner for their bigger television shows. In the past, there have been stories of political problems between Kazuyoshi Ishii and Kunio Kiyohara.
Shukan Gendai: PRIDE & Kiyohara (Fuji TV) try to stop Sakuraba from leaving DSE
In a short article in this week’s edition of Shukan Gendai, the magazine talks about Kazushi Sakuraba leaving PRIDE because they claim that he has been concerned with what has been going on in PRIDE for a long time. Second, the magazine states that Sakuraba was getting a few million yen per fight appearance (while putting himself at physical risk), whereas contemporaries like Hidehiko Yoshida and Naoya Ogawa were taking giant paydays on New Year’s Eve. (Editor’s note — While I do believe it is true that Sakuraba was getting paid less fight money than Yoshida and Ogawa, I do not believe that it was just “a few million yen” per fight.)
The magazine notes that Kunio Kiyohara apparently called Kazuyoshi Ishii to complain about Sakuraba leaving PRIDE and tried to stop Sakuraba from showing up at the HERO’s 5/3 Tokyo, Yoyogi National Stadium Gym I event. Gendai claims that Kiyohara/PRIDE even tried sending a car to block Sakuraba’s driveway on the day of the HERO’s show in an attempt to actually stop him from going. The magazine claims that Ishii responded to Kiyohara’s complaints by stating, “I thought that you and Fuji TV had nothing to do with fighter contracts, and you didn’t take any action when K-1 fighters left for PRIDE. Has your policy changed?” Gendai says Kiyohara didn’t answer this question.