The move is a break from the promotion’s usual format of taking its own The Ultimate Fighter franchise into international markets to develop new talent. The partnership with VTJ, however, will serve much the same purpose at TUF, as it is a way to unearth new talent for the Octagon.
UFC President Dana White announced the deal at a press conference in Japan on Thursday.
The Vale Tudo Japan series began in 1994 and was run by the Shooto organization, which now is the VTJ series, and provided Japanese fighters the opportunity to compete against fighters from all over the world. The winner of the inaugural show in the partnership will earn a UFC contract.
“Much like The Ultimate Fighter, this series will continue to cultivate and popularize top talent for us in new markets,” said White. “The round-robin tournament concept is going to make for amazing fights, with a lot at stake; every fight will matter, every performance will count. I am so excited to be back in Japan.”
The tournament will feature fighters in the bantamweight (135 pounds) and featherweight (145 pounds) divisions and will air on Japanese terrestrial TV, which will potentially bring the action into the homes of millions of Japanese fans. The show is expected to encompass 30 episodes, featuring three fights per episode, over the course of eight months.
Although details weren’t yet finalized, the show is expected to air globally on UFC Fight Pass.