For all of 2010, discussion of the once-almighty Japanese MMA market has centered around that culture's waning interest in the sport and the dire straights in which FEG, overwhelmingly the largest player in Japan, has found itself. High salaries and declining television ratings have caused Chinese investment firm PUJI Capital to back away from the promotion, realizing their prospects of injecting roughly $200 million into the company via some sort of seed funding were completely unrealistic.
Fighters Only Magazine broke down FEG's precarious situation:
Unable to obtain loans or capital from investors FEG has, according to our souce, gone to the ‘black market' for loans with which to pay its fighters. This of course raises the spectre of the Yakuza links which killed PRIDE FC, but FEG has always been fastidious about avoiding such links (or at least, having any such links made public). Seeking capital from ‘unofficial' sources is a very risky move...
The company hopes for, and badly needs, big ratings for its Dynamite! show on New Year's Eve, mainly because it needs good numbers to show to potential investors and it also needs to keep the TV deal it has. The hunt for cash continues but our source, who has operated in the Japanese market for some years, is pessimistic about FEG's ability to sustain itself and predicts a buy-out or the company's demise towards the end of 2011.
Despite the pervasive turmoil, FEG's annual New Year's specatcular is shaping up with a solid card for Dynamite!! 2010. New Year's Eve is the biggest night for television in Japan, and FEG has begun loading the card with recognizable names and signifcant matchups in an effort to garner the big rating it so desperately needs. With the usual blend of MMA and K-1 rules bouts, here's how the lineup looks so far:
DREAM Featherweight Championship bout:
DREAM Welterweight Championship bout:
Marius Zaromskis vs. Kazushi Sakuraba
K-1 MAX bout: Tetsuya Yamato vs. Akiyo Nishiura
DREAM Featherweight bout: Kazuyuki Miyata vs. Caol Uno
DREAM/K-1 Special Rules bout: Shinya Aoki vs. Yuichiro Nagashima
K-1 bout: Gegard Mousasi vs. Kyotaro
DREAM Featherweight bout: Hideo Tokoro vs. Kazuhisa Watanabe
DREAM Welterweight bout: Hayato Sakurai vs. Jason High
DREAM Openweight bout: Ikuhisa Minowa vs. Hiroshi Izumi
DREAM Heavyweigth bout: Sergei Kharitonov vs. Tatsuya MizunoAlso scheduled to appear are Melvin Manhoef and recent K-1 Grand Prix Champion Alistair Overeem in separate bouts.
The inclusion of Ishii, gold medalist in judo at the Beijing Olympics, is the biggest ratings-grabber on the card, but having Aoki, Sakurai, Minowaman, Kyotaro and 2004 Olympic silver-medalist judoka Hiroshi Izumi in bouts should probably guarantee at least moderately good ratings. Also of note is the legendary Sakuraba's first championship bout since 2003, not to mention what should be an excellent, even fight between Tatsuya Kawajiri and Josh Thomson. Gegard Mousasi is scheduled for his first kickboxing match since beating old K-1 stalwart Musashi back in 2008 and is set to take on K-1 Heavyweight Champion Kyotaro, a dangerous young fighter with notable wins over Peter Aerts, Jerome Le Banner, Melvin Manhoef, and Gokhan Saki. Fresh off his K-1 tournament win, Overeem could also provide a little extra pop for the card.
In all, it is actually a very enticing event. If this is the last stand of major MMA in Japan, at least it's going out in a blaze of glory. Dynamite!! 2010 will go down in the Saitama Super Arena and will air live on HDNet at 4:00am.