While the mixed martial arts scene in Japan faces continued uncertainty, the biggest MMA promotion in the world looks intent on making it’s return to the country for the first time in over 11 years.
Former Senior Vice President and Managing Director of NBA Asia and current Asia Executive Vice President and Managing Director for Zuffa, Mark Fischer, has been the man in charge for getting the UFC ready for a return to the market.
Despite Fischer’s lengthy title, his initial mission when hired by Zuffa was simple: bring the UFC to China.
After the NBA’s success in the world’s most populated country via Shanghai-born Yao Ming, the UFC has made it a priority to penetrate the vast Asian market.
Along with the mission to invade China is the goal to return to Japan for the first time since UFC 25 which occurred all the way back on April 14, 2000.
According to MMAFighting, Fischer is confident of the UFC’s future success in Japan:
“Zuffa has been working on the Japan market for many years, and the various relationships and resources we have built up here over this time have generated some significant opportunities for us now.”
Despite the recent struggles of Japanese promotions such as Dream and Sengoku, along with the death of Pride Fighting Championships several years ago, the UFC is confident that the Japanese fanbase will ultimately support the brand at live events and on television.
The main issue, of course, is obtaining television in the first place. The UFC currently has deals with WOWOW TV and NTT Plala, along with mobile-television company TV Bank. But those deals are only “supplemental methods of distribution”.
“The sport of MMA still has a deep base of popularity in Japan. The combination of this fundamental base, the UFC’s global leadership of the sport and our commitment to excellence in everything we do, and the participation in UFC of a number of locally relevant fighters, is a potent formula which will ultimately make UFC an attractive property for network TV in Japan. We are also looking at creating innovative programming most suitable for network TV, which will help us get those relationships started and then we can build from there.”
The UFC has a number of fighters under contract that would seemingly be prime for a spot on a future UFC/Japan event.
Fighters like Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, Michihiro Omigawa, Takanori Gomi, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Jorge Santiago, and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua all seem to be a nice fit for UFC’s impending fourth event in Japan.
For now, the key according to Fischer is slowly penetrating the market through the various methods they have already begun.
“This additional exposure will naturally help build the UFC fan base in Japan; given the marketing and promotion of these channels, and the fact that all over the world, when new audiences get the chance to see UFC, many tend to come back for more and ultimately become avid fans.”