Why did MMA/Kickboxing lose popularity in Japan?

Discussion in 'Worldwide MMA Discussion' started by Brampton_Boy, Aug 4, 2019.

  1. Brampton_Boy

    Brampton_Boy Douchey Mc Douche

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    I've been a huge fan of the sport for the better part of two decades, and was recently re-watching Hoost vs. Lebanner in the 1999 K1 GP Final.

    The stadium was PACKED and the atmosphere looked electric. This was before any sort of social media, so the enthusiasm and love for the sport seemed organic.

    When I first started following the sport seriously in the early 2000s, the NYE shows between K1 and Pride would be massive events, often the highest rated programs on Japanese television (I remember reading the overnight PBP when @OYO used to cover the events live). Bob Sapp became a cross over sensation, and MMA fighters were endorsing every day products the same way that Tiger Woods or Roger Federer do now.

    Then in 2007, Pride got caught up in some sort of scandal with the Yakuza, and lost their television deal. Somehow this tanked the entire MMA/K1 scene - I don't think I have seen anything analogous happen in any other country, or for any other sport. It's like it was a momentary fad, and the Japanese public collectively moved on seemingly overnight.

    For any of those who lived in the country, or are familiar with the story, could you shed some light on how everything unraveled? It seems kind of crazy to think you can go from selling out the Tokyo Dome, to having ONE FC and Ryzen become the biggest local players (no offense to them, but they are minor leagues compared to peak Pride/K1).

    Many thanks for any insight anyone can offer.
     
  2. LiveFreeorDie

    LiveFreeorDie Gun Belt

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  3. leto1776

    leto1776 Sherdog Wet Shaver Platinum Member

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  4. ThunderL1ps

    ThunderL1ps Red Belt

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    The thing that really set it off was Cro Cop leaving K-1 for PRIDE as well as Cro Cop and Fedor's agent involvement in Inoki Bombayee events. Basically those events, plus others, pulled the curtain back on the underbelly of the fight game in Japan.

    Zach Arnold has good write-ups about the events and subsequent fallout on his Fight Opinion website.
     
  5. FKA

    FKA AZ Hotshots/OAK Raiders/That Bellator guy

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    Japanese people were very turned off by the yakuza scandal they are a prideful people and they all hated the dishonor it brought.
     
  6. JacJeanFinger

    JacJeanFinger Purple Belt

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    MMA supporting community in Japan was built among Ultraman generation (those who were born in mid 50s - mid 70s) and they grew out of it by the arrival of new century.

    Since fetal weaponry were strictly banned, they developed a collective parallel wonderland where every possible fightfight hypothesis was routinely discussed. "Kickass" was the biggest concern for male population from this Ultraman generation.

    Late 70s to early half of 80s was the hardest era when Japan was an extension of "basketball diaries" episodes. After communist student's violence slowly left the country, it was replaced by uncontrollable street fights and teen gang conflicts. "Who is the toughest man?" "What's the most effective martial arts?" They would talk on and on while having no military functions.

    Ultraman generation's overgrown dreamers realized that they were wasting their precious time when Bob Sapp, an untrained NFL dropout destroyed seasoned martial art champions one by one in a dominating performance.
     
  7. HHJ

    HHJ Jeg reiser til mørkets dyp der alt er dødt.

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    All the biggest stars were gone. Interest waned,and died out.
     
  8. Yrat

    Yrat Purple Belt

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    An Another guess is that once PRIDE started to surpass K-1 by popularity in Japan most of the executives wanted the stake. Just like if an NHL team came from no where and won Stanleys cup.
     
  9. gono btw

    gono btw Rounds...

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    che.png

    wank Hideo Tokoro Masakazu Imanari dream.gif
     
  10. skylolow

    skylolow Silver Belt

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    Not getting into to it all as I believe a lot of things contributed to the state of MMA in Japan today.

    We should remember that a lot of JMMA popularity was put on the backs of mainly crossover promotional stars from various walks in life. Pro wrestling and Sumo being prime examples. Pure great MMA athletes weren't even close to the same level of popularity or draw. Here is perfect examples of this https://www.yahoo.com/news/ten-highest-rated-japanese-mma-182200552--spt.html
    Once these stars faded the sport just disappeared on the big stage. That is what you have today for the most part is more pure MMA athletes and not cultural icons from different walks of life. That is why JMMA today is more or less forgettable compared to the glory days.

    Yakuza was the downfall of the TV deals and many sponsorship deals for PrideFC. But make no mistake about it, the Japanese people, fighters, journalist, etc. knew full well Yakuza was heavily embedded in combat sports in Japan as they are in most business fields in Japan, including their own government. So this wasn't some type of massive shock. It was just brought out in the daylight and then was made an example of by the people in power in different walks of life.
     
  11. InfinityLens

    InfinityLens Black Belt

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    Why didn't people with money just buy some cultural icons and put them in the ring if that was a proven formula?
     
  12. skylolow

    skylolow Silver Belt

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    It doesn't seem like there is much on the investor side for JMMA. I believe Sak. has put a lot of his own money up for Rizin. I'm sure he got some investors to chip in for the Mayweather exhibition. With the fans being more educated than ever on MMA I don't think they buy into the "cultural cross over shock" in droves like they use to. I think that fad has more or less worn out on a massive scale. Those kind of stars today make a lot more money than back then and I doubt they have that will or need to cross over.
     
  13. Brampton_Boy

    Brampton_Boy Douchey Mc Douche

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    Really appreciate yours (and everyone else's) insights.

    What's strange to me is that I genuinely can't think of this happening in any other sport, or any other country. It's hard for a sport to become a fad at such a massive scale - this isn't something like ultimate frisby or Ninja Warrior, which has a dedicated, but small following that may ebb and flow with the times. At one point K1 was more popular that baseball in Japan (I distinctly remember the commentator making note of that).

    To draw a parallel to modern MMA, if the UFC somehow failed, it would be a shock, but at the end of the day, it was never considered a mainstream sport.

    Crazy story, and perhaps testament to the Japanese culture as much as it was to the fighting organizations of the time.
     
  14. skylolow

    skylolow Silver Belt

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    Japanese culture in a nutshell is strange.

    It's one of the forefront countries in the world that has always been on its own path when it comes to entertainment. Case in point many times when a certain show like American Idol is big hit in America or UK it usually gets duplicated in many countries and does very well in those countries. Japan is on whole different path when it comes to media and always has been.
     
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  15. superpunch

    superpunch Silver Belt

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    Is that what you're saying? MMA was like UFC 1 to them. It was pitting different martial arts and stuff against each other. The big cultural icons in Japanese sports are often martial artists like judo, sumo, (pro) wrestling (who wouldn't have wanted to see hulk hogan in UFC 1?), etc. All those guys gave it a shot and created the big organization that was PRIDE.

    Then real MMA guys started dominating. Then Japanese MMA died because of it.

    And now that MMA is a proven thing, martial artists and Japanese cultural icons like judo, sumo, pro wrestling, etc. know they can't win in it. And so they don't even try. And so Japanese MMA stays dead.

    PRIDE was awesome but MMA can only survive as a spectacle for a short time. In the long run, Japan needed a Dana to get Japanese MMA regulated, sanctioned, and marketed as a sport.
     
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  16. skylolow

    skylolow Silver Belt

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    I won't say it died. I think people's expectations of JMMA is out of whack.

    People today expect like PRIDE 3.0 or whatever. The Japanese market can't support a MMA org like Pride in 2019. People forget that Pride never just killed it the revenue department. I'm willing to bet the best year ever for them was around 35 million to 40 million or so in revenue(at least legal revenue) and probably a lot of years less than 25 million. But in 2005 that was fine. Today the UFC does that in less than a month. They simply don't have the market to compete on what is basically the UFC size stage in 2019 that fans clamour for. What you get is what we have today, Rizin or Deep type level of MMA. You still get the Japanese flair with Rizin that fans love about Pride, you just don't have the abundance of top talent today.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
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  17. InfinityLens

    InfinityLens Black Belt

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    So what do you think it will take to make MMA big in Japan again and do you think that will happen?
     
  18. Sausage_Carius

    Sausage_Carius Blue Belt

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    Rampant fixed fights/cheating. Eventually people catch on. Boxing has had similar problems over the years but idiots still pay to watch a fight they know is going to get stolen. Then again I'm one of those idiots that buys fights I know will likely get stolen but it happens to be MMA not boxing. Oh well.
     
  19. kingcillo24

    kingcillo24 Black Belt

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    Japan is still a better MMA economy than all, but US, Poland and Russia. There has never been a homegrown promotion in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, UK, South Korea, China that has drawn over 20k multiple times like Rizin's 2018 schedule.
     
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  20. MadDildo

    MadDildo Shame Staff Member Senior Moderator

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    PRIDE was corrupt, but Japan was fascinated. This seems to have evaporated the moment they realized they were going to get steamrolled by the West.

    Where are you getting the idea that Japan doesn't have the finances to support an enormously well-funded org if the sport was that popular? The mean wealth of adults in Japan, in American dollars, is $227K. That's #19 in the world. More importantly, their median wealth is #9 (ahead of the USA). Japan has 127m people, or nearly 40% of the USA's population. In the USA there are at least five sports more commercially popular than MMA.

    It's strange because you observe the same phenomenon from fetishists of that culture over here. I remember when all the Japanophiles talked nonstop trash about "fat Americans", and how bad we would get trashed by Japan in Sasuke (Ninja Warrior). Well, it picked up here, several years later Team America went to compete against Team Japan, and utterly humiliated them. Suddenly Japanophiles stopped talking about Ninja Warrior all the time.
     

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