UFC Targeting March 2013 for Next Stop in Japan

July 15, 2012
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The Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to Japan for UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson this past February. It marked the promotion’s first event in Japan in more than a decade.

It appears the UFC is ready to return, already planning for another date at the Saitama Super Arena in 2013, according to NikkanSports.com.

MMAWeekly.com sources indicate that March 3 is the date that officials are circling on the calendar.

UFC 144 featured Benson Henderson taking the UFC lightweight championship from Frankie Edgar, reportedly pulling in an estimated attendance of about 20,000 fans in Saitama, Japan.

The Japanese mixed martial arts scene has been under a steady decline since Zuffa, LLC, the UFC’s parent company, acquired the Pride Fighting Championships and eventually shuttered the promotion after unsuccessful attempts to keep it in operation in Japan.

Dream and Sengoku each tried to pick up where Pride left off, but were unsuccessful.

Now, the UFC is making a slow, but concerted effort to continue on in Japan as part of its overall strategy to expand in the Asian market.

Prior to next year’s return to Japan, UFC on Fuel TV 6 is slated for Nov. 10 in Macau, China, and if he heals up in time, Cung Le will be a featured fighter on the Chinese card.

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  • adam1848

    Can anyone comment on what actually happened after Zuffa took over Pride? I’ve read a few different things, like Pride had unusual, “off the book” debt to various shady organizations and was actually close to bankruptcy and stuff like that, but I’ve never actually heard a legitimate account of whether Zuffa honestly tried to run the two organizations parallel, or if that was just lip service to lubricate the acquisition of the organization in order to absorb its marque fighters before giving the finger to the Japanese fans. I have no reason not to believe Dana and Lorenzo’s side of the story, but it seems hard to comprehend that a seemingly thriving organization, which packed stadiums with 50,000-70,000 people on a regular basis and was considered the premier establishment for MMA, was unsalvageable (if we recall the time when the UFC was considered Pride’s Strikeforce).

    • Lesnardo

      PRIDE was definitely salvageable. But Japanese are known to shun things that are not domestic. With former execs of K-1 Heroes and PRIDE forming new organizations like Sengoku and Dream, UFC didn’t feel comfortable with continuing the show in Japan. Fast forward 4 years, Dream and Sengoku are bankrupt or near bankrupt. UFC now sees thi as an opportunity to enter Japan.

      PRIDE had some sort of connection with the Yakuza and that connection caused, or at least led up to, the eventual loss of the Fuji TV deal. Unlike the UFC, PRIDE depended on TV deals. That’s when PRIDE threw shows in the US.

      As much as hardcore fans can’t get over PRIDE, what would have been the reason to keep it alive when the UFC wasn’t comfortable with competing against Dream and Sengoku in Japan?

      • elguapo

        Interesting stuff, cheers for sharing. Interesting what you say about the Japanese being introverted. I think that’s definitely the case when it comes to something they feel is part of their heritage, ie martial arts, yet they go wild for English soccer etc.

  • Lesnardo

    Sorry, with the loss of TV deal, PRIDE was not salvageable.

  • mikemma123

    Oh god, how I miss pride…

    • RubeKegal

      The announcer alone was worth the price

  • borlots

    There’s a bit of revisionist history about Pride. First off, Pride wasn’t strictly an MMA organization. Much of the draw for the Japanese fans were the Pro wrasslin’ matches and the freak show fights that were mixing into their cards.
    Pride wasn’t strictly an MMA organization. Pro wrestling is much more popular than MMA in Japan. In most Japanese MMA organizations. you might see K-1 rules in one round of a fight and the next MMA rules. The lines are blurred in Japan, with the freak fights, wrestling, K-1 and MMA sometimes all mixed together in one card.
    In the US, we have not mixed the diffrent sports together within an organization. UFC is MMA and nothing else, as the WWE does nothing but wrasslin’. You seldom will see freak shows in the US.
    To put it plainly, most japanese fans watch it more as a form of entertainment, while we treat it strictly as a sport. That’s why many in the media think the UFC will not succeed in Japan. In Asia, Bobb Sapp has continually been a featured attraction with various organizations. Could you imagine the UFC or Bellator signing him to a fight?