When the UFC first announced that they would finally be returning to Japan on February 24th for UFC 144 many questioned how successful the show would be.
After all, mixed martial arts has suffered a major downturn in the region since the heyday of PRIDE with attendances and TV ratings plummeting for it’s homegrown promotions like DREAM, leaving them struggling just to keep their heads above water.
Add to that the fact that the UFC haven’t been heavily promoting the event the same way they did when they did a similarly long-awaited return to Brazil last year, the fact that they don’t have a strong TV deal in Japan and their decision to hold the event at 10am local time in order to have it beamed back live to the U.S and it began to look like this could be a risky venture for the promotion.
However, according to MMAJunkie, a UFC source has revealed that 15,000 tickets have already been snapped up for the show which will be headlined by a lightweight title fight between current champion Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson.
That’s impressive given that we’re still three weeks away from the show. It becomes even more so when you consider that the DREAM promotion could only muster a weak 9,270 fans for it’s top attendance in 2011.
So it appears that despite the obstacles in their way the UFC does still have a following in Japan and are going to transcend the difficulties that have faced the countries own promotion’s in recent years.
Hopefully the event will be a good one and could spark a resurgence of the sport in Japan and awaken a sleeping giant in the realm of mixed martial arts.