MMANews.com by Rory MacLeod
SENGOKU SCORES TIME ON FUJI TV
Sengoku, the new Japanese MMA event backed by upstart promoters World Victory Road, will have segments from their inaugural March 5th event broadcast by Japanese televsion giant FUJI TV.
Fuji, the TV station which formerly broadcasted PRIDE events, will feature Sengoku I on “Special Ring Side”, a 30 minute program which highlights kickboxing and traditional martial arts action from around Japan.
Sengoku footage airing on Fuji is certainly a boon to the fledgling promotion, which showed its March 5th card live on the smaller satiellite service, SkyPerfecTV. But the news could have greater implications for the future of the Japanese MMA industry.
Fuji TV, part of one of the six largest terrestrial networks in Japan, was the long-time home of PRIDE Fighting Championships, and enjoyed great success during the peak of the promotion's glory days. Big PRIDE events would often pull in mammoth national ratings on par with the popularity of American Idol in North America. But in June of 2006, Fuji abruptly terminated their TV contract with Dream Stage Entertainment, the promoters of PRIDE FC, citing a breach of contract. Most believed a negative campaign by Japanese tabloid Shukan Gendai, alleging PRIDE was a front for Yakuza (organized crime) activity, was the cause for termination.
Fuji TV has not aired any MMA content since their split with PRIDE. The announcement of Sengoku footage on Special Ring Side has led to speculation that Fuji may be looking at the prospect of once again airing live shows, which could help reverse the erosion of top-level MMA in Japan.
DREAM, the other new MMA event promoted by Fight Entertainment Group, producers of K-1 Kickboxing, debuted on Tokyo Broadcasting System March 15th to an 8.9% share, which was viewed by most to be a disappointing figure. Some attribute the low rating to a lack of household Japanese names competing, such as Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and Kazushi Sakuraba. The peak rating of the telecast was 12.7%, during a bout featuring international star Mirko CroCop.
Sengoku officials have indicated FUJI TV is keeping its eye on the performance of DREAM broadcasts. They say a 20% share is what it would take for Fuji executives to consider putting MMA back on their airwaves.