In a recent interview UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta declared that the promotion were targeting an event in Asia, with Japan one of the countries at the top of the list. While there are a number of factors standing in the way of such an event, two new deals announced today indicate the UFC’s commitment to the region.
The first announcement reveals that the UFC have entered into a partnership with TV Bank Corp which will enable an official UFC Mobile Site available through all three major Japanese cellular networks, providing fans with content ranging from news updates to fights on demand, wallpapers, ringtones and more. While most of the content will be free, users will have to pay for some premium content.
Meanwhile, the second announcement was the unveiling of a new deal with Hikari TV, an internet television company with 1.3 million Japanese subscribers. The deal will see the network delivering tape-delayed UFC event along with archived footage of past events and bouts from both the UFC and PRIDE.
Attending the press announcement, the UFC’s Managing Director Of Asia, Mark Fischer discussed what the deals meant for the growth of the promotion in Japan.
“Today is a very important step in expanding our media platforms to bring the UFC to more Japanese fans than ever before. We want to make sure that any fan who wants to watch the UFC has the best access they can and, at the same time, reach new fans.”
In the past Dana White has talked about the need to lay the ground work in the new regions through things like TV deals before following that up with events at a later stage as the fan base and general awareness of the company grows, and it certainly seems as if that’s the plan here.
It’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out. At the present time DREAM is the major MMA promotion in Japan, but their parent company FEG have fallen on hard times due to a lack of investment and falling ratings and may struggle to make it through to the end of the year.
That may suggest that now is the perfect time for the UFC to step in and become the dominant force in the region, or on the other hand that interest in mixed martial arts in Japan is no longer what it once was during the heyday of the PRIDE Fighting Championships.
It should also be noted that the UFC are not the only promotion currently eying the Japanese market. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker already has strong ties to the market dating back to the PRIDE era, and also struck a deal with DREAM to exchange fighters in recent times.
He has also stated an interest in taking a Strikeforce event to Japan, potentially even one of the upcoming legs of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament which features several fighters who are extremely popular in the Asian market such as Alistair Overeem, Fedor Emelianenko and Josh Barnett.
Japanese MMA might be in a dark place at this moment in time, but judging by recent developments there’s still light at the end of the tunnel.