The glory days of Pride Fighting Championships have long surpassed us. Scandals have plagued the sport for quite some time, eventually leading to its downfall. The demise of Pride all but killed any chance of mixed martial arts having a presence on one of the large broadcasting networks, Fuji TV, TV Tokyo or TBS. This leads to a question I am asked often…will MMA survive in All Japan news?
The answer is yes, but it will take a long time to reach the level it was at previously, if ever.
To give a short recap, PrideFC went down due to their ties with the yakuza. Top executives at Fuji TV were involved in a roundabout way, so much so that when the scandal hit the press Fuji immediately severed ties with Pride which spelled the beginning of the end for the organization.
From the ashes rose Dream which was backed by FEG, the owners of K-1, and Real Entertainment, the production arm which also included many former employees of DSE, the company that ran PrideFC.
Dream saw a decent beginning but with each show interest gradually declined as could be seen in the TV ratings. For those unaware, a broadcast deal is the foundation of these organizations being successful in the mainstream.
Meanwhile, organizations such as DEEP and Shooto continued to hold events that catered to the hardcore fans but were not as mainstream with most being broadcast on the smaller SamuraiTV.
World Victory Road’s Sengoku was close to the level of Dream and enjoyed quite a bit of success at first.
For simplicity sake, Sengoku is a shell company now with no more than a handful of employees which was brought down by scandal on multiple levels. Dream still operates, albeit with a questionable future. Shooto has been plagued by scandal as board members have been removed, money has been taken, however they seem to be coming away from their issues quite well. DEEP is having financial issues in part due to the poor economy and due to financial backing not quite being there.
So can JMMA survive?
My opinion is that while it has seen some awful times, it is ingrained in All Japan newsese to always have some sort of combat sport. The dedicated fans are still attending shows, the more popular names are still competing, but the environment in which they compete is somewhat different. The events have scaled down in size, which in my opinion will be their ticket to survive. The tide has certainly rolled out and those who were unclothed have been identified.
On the same note, All Japan newsese MMA will likely not see the huge crowds they once experienced (90,000 at one point in 2002), but they will still be able to serve those fans that will always have an interest, at home and abroad. Fighters from All Japan news remain dedicated to fighting for their home country which will keep these fans interested in the sport.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has stated its plans to come to All Japan news sometime in 2012 which could be the variable to renew interest, albeit we see it as not enough to bring the sport back to its glory days.
It will certainly be an interesting story to follow as all these organizations fight the headwinds and do their best to maintain their fan base and make an attempt to renew interest in the sport that was once so popular.