Daniel Herbetson has a great interview with MMA manager Shu Hirata. This is what Hirata had to say about Japan being just a colony of American:
...guys like Yushin Okami, Ryo Chonan, Akihiro Gono, Yoshiro Maeda, Kuniyoshi Hironaka, Keitaro Nakamura, Dokonjonosuke Mishima, Mitsuhiro Miura, Yoshiyuki Yoshida, Kazuhiro Nakamura, Takeya Mizugaki and recently Takanori Gomi, and of course, many others, bravely stepped up and went to the real "Major League" called the UFC/WEC. Sure only few of them are still surviving in there but these guys are the fighters that carried the Japanese flag on their shoulders. All Aoki did was, walked on a safe, glorious path created by DREAM and fought in Strikeforce, which is not necessarily the certified "Major League" of MMA. He is not walking on the tough road. Its like while Ichiro and Matusi are playing in the MLB, he was making a special appearance in some Canadian or Carribean baseball league. So for him to say Japan has become a MMA colony of the States just because he got beat by Melendez is a big insult to guys like Okami, Mizugaki and Yoshida who are still fighting and winning enough to stay in the big leagues.
I strongly agree with Hirata. Aoki was unanimously anointed by both the American and Japanese media as Japan's last hope. It has been clear to me that Dream has protected Aoki, because quite frankly Aoki is/was consistently a solid draw for attendance and viewership. Hirata explains what needs to be done for Japanese fighters to be successfully in the west:
I think overall effort is lacking. The promoter is not putting enough effort to promote shows. For example, there is not enough emphasis on getting sponsors and TV deals from overseas. I think fighters and gyms are not putting in enough effort to learn new training methods. There should be more fighters going to the states for training, and more trainers should be coming to the States to see and learn what the other MMA fighters and trainers are doing. Also, Japanese fighters should also put in a little more effort to learn about training, dieting, nutrition and everything else necessary for MMA.
And finally Hirata touches on if and when Japan will have a successful champion in the Octagon:
think fighters like Ikuo Usuda and Nobuhiro Obiya could be very competitive if they are willing to cut to 145 lbs. I've always believed that Hatsu Hioki could compete at the world's top level at 145 lbs, as could Lion Takeshi. However, because of Japanese MMA politics some of those fighters won't leave Japan and test their skill in the Octagon so I am actually already looking to the younger generation of athletes. I am now doing a heavy scout on high school judo or wrestling champions that are willing to begin MMA training here in the States and start a pro MMA career here in the States.
Because of Japanese politics most MMA fans are robbed of watching these great fighters compete against the best competition in the world. The fighters are robbed of an opportunity of making more money and getting the exposure that the states bring. In the last 5 years the MMA community has been robbed. We have watched time and time again Lion Takeshi fight inferior opposition, Kid Yamamoto throw his career away, and Tatsuya Kawajiri being mistreated by every promotion he has been with. And the vicious cycle is continuing. Shigeki Osawa and Satoshi Ishii have been thrown into the deep end, and they are struggling. It's great to see Hirata cultivate the young and upcoming talent in Japan Why are the promoters in Japan not doing this? The Japanese way of business is dying, and the managers are realizing this. Promoters and gym owners are starting to and must change the way MMA operates in Japan or else all the talent in Japan will go elsewhere.