ONE FC created the Japanese fans’ nightmare at ONE 165
ONE FC’s Chatri Sityodtong unabashedly exhibits every stereotype Japanese fight fans believe when it comes to foreign promoters and politicians like Dana White & Donald Trump.
In his (con)quest to build Japan as a key destination for ONE, Chatri has managed to acquire some key business partners — and then has promptly trashed the quality of fighters in Japan while proclaiming that his company is bigger than the “club status” of domestic rivals who he may — or may not have — wanted to do business with. Even Chatri’s own long-time Japanese associates, like Shinya Aoki, are no longer holding back criticism — contractual provisions be damned.
The environment Chatri fostered in Japan for his major ONE 165 event this past Sunday at Ariake Arena with top kickboxing star Takeru was exactly the kind of nightmarish scenario PRIDE fans envisioned after Dana White & UFC purchased the PRIDE assets in 2007.
The boorish outsider coming into a major market, wanting money from the Japanese fight fans while putting himself over at the same time as the leader of global martial arts. Throw in non-stop burying of the quality of domestic gyms and promoters as third-rate jokes. Imagine a marketing combination of a pick-up artist’s “negging” playbook married with old-school Sherdog message board shit-posting.
This attitude, combined with two key Japanese business partnerships — one with kickboxer Takeru and one with Yuji Kitano, the hyper-aggressive fight producer for TV-Asahi backed digital channel ABEMA — produced a combustible yet intoxicating can’t-miss content mix for ONE’s biggest show ever at Ariake Arena in Tokyo.
Chatri’s bully pulpit, highlighted by his own admission of “over $500 million dollars” in venture capital backing, created a grand experiment in Asia’s biggest stage. How the ONE event played out reinforced the accuracy of an old fight adage: it’s better to be interesting and hated rather than be boring but loved.
ONE FC’s Japanese Expansion Plan – Takeru & ABEMA
The man making things happen behind the scenes for Chatri and ONE is Yuji Kitano, the fight producer for TV-Asahi’s ABEMA digital channel. He is a one man machine with an incredible amount of corporate resources. Mr. Kitano is the most aggressive Japanese fight producer since Kunio Kiyohara, the mastermind behind the K-1 & PRIDE machines on Fuji TV.
The difference between Mr. Kitano and Mr. Kiyohara? Protectionism. K-1 was famous for legendary foreign aces like Peter Aerts and Andy Hug. Mr. Kiyohara was very protective of the Japanese entities Fuji TV was promoting. He was reportedly upset when K-1 started airing B-level shows on Nippon TV. Mr. Kitano, meanwhile, is fond of Japanese aces but he is not a hardcore nationalist and he is certainly not a promotional protectionist. In the same manner as Japanese fight manager Shu Hirata, Kitano doesn’t mind promoting multinational promotions as long as there is development of Japanese stars as key players in those foreign groups.
It is this mindset that has turbo-charged the push for WWE on the Asahi-backed ABEMA. Despite the fact that Asahi has a piece of ownership and a seat at the table for New Japan Pro-Wrestling, it is Mr. Kitano leading the charge for the WWE push in Japan. He wants to see WWE back in Japan.
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