When Zuffa effectively killed PRIDE soon after purchasing the Japanese promotion back in 2007 for a reported $64-million US, when UFC president Dana White stated it was just impossible to deal with the Yakuza, it seemed unlikely that we would ever see the Octagon in the Land of the Rising Sun again.
Well, it looks like dealing with the Yakuza in 2011 is a lot easier than it was four years ago.
According to MMAWeekly, the UFC is close to finalizing a date and location for its first Japanese show since 2000, and the first under the Zuffa banner since Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta purchased the company from SEG in January 2001. The date for the planned show would be February 26 and the planned venue is the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama — the arena that housed 24 of PRIDE’s 68 events.
The venue has been booked by agencies working with Zuffa in Japan, which doesn’t necessarily mean the locale is final (the UFC has booked both Rogers Centre in Toronto and Bell Centre in Montreal for this December), it’s the company’s number one choice.
During last week’s pre-fight press conference for UFC 132, White hinted that the move into Japan would be happening soon.
“The rumor is true, we’re going to come to Japan and probably very soon,” White told reporters.
The report goes on to state that the UFC’s executive vice president Mark Fischer, who was hired in 2010 to champion Zuffa’s Asian resurgence, is currently working to finalize a date and venue for the planned event in Japan and he has spoken with a number of Japanese promoters to solicit their advice on putting on shows there. It’s unclear, although unlikely given the UFC’s stance on co-promotion, whether or not Zuffa plans to work with another promoter on the show.
Although no names have been mentioned for the card since it’s more than seven months away, it’s likely that we’ll see a number of former PRIDE stars like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and the Nogueira brothers on the card alongside Japanese standouts like Yushin Okami and Yoshihiro Akiyama. We may even see the UFC pick up Shinya Aoki by then to round out its lightweight roster.