At UFC 144, the organization made a triumphant return to the Land of the Rising Sun with an evening full of exciting fights, culminating in Benson Henderson winning the lightweight championship from Frankie Edgar. Add on the way that the polite, educated Japanese fans packed the Saitama Super Arena, and it felt like it would only be a matter of time before the organization returned to Japan for more events.
Today, Japanese sportspaper NikkanSports is reporting (translated by MMAWeekly) that the UFC is planning on returning to Japan with a series of four smaller events in 2013. The events will showcase local, Japanese talent and will take place at a small, yet-to-be-determined venue. The UFC is reportedly aiming for 5,000 people attending each event.
Obviously, none of these events will be numbered events, although there are no current plans in place pertaining to what network will broadcast the series. Still, the series seems like a good compromise. On one hand, it’s no secret that the UFC wants to re-establish itself in Japan, which has to include regularly holding events in Japan. However, good luck finding an abundance of Japanese fighters in the UFC who can headline a pay-per-view. Sure, guys like Takanori Gomi, Takeya Mizugaki and Hatsu Hioki are good for some entertaining fights, but I wouldn’t exactly rush to buy a pay-per-view headlined by any of them. With the UFC 151 fiasco fresh on everybody’s mind, a four event cable television series seems like a great way to book fights that the Japanese fans want to watch but the American fans don’t want to pay for.
We’ll keep you up-to-date as events are named, dates are set and fights are booked. Until then, have at it in the comments section on whether or not this is a good strategy for the UFC. And try not to turn this into another Jon Jones/Chael Sonnen war, okay?