Two-time Observer Awards promoter of the year winner Nobuyuki Sakakibara announced today in Tokyo the formation of his new promotion, the Rizin Fighting Federation, a new attempt to rekindle the heyday of Japanese MMA, complete with a New Year's Eve show that will air in the U.S. in prime time on Spike TV.
What was announced is two shows, both at the Saitama Super Arena, one on 12/29 and the other on 12/31.
The biggest news is that Fuji TV, one of the major networks in Japan, will broadcast the event. Fuji TV was the network that broadcasted Pride until it was dropped in the wake of media stories about Yakuza influence in the promotion, which led to the group's demise. It was not made clear if the show would air live in Japan, with the indication that Fuji TV would air it as a special built around the fights of Fedor Emelianenko and New Japan's Kazushi Sakuraba, who was the biggest name Japanese star announced as competing.
Among the plans for the promotion include an eight person heavyweight tournament with $500,000 going to the winner, which would be taking place at some point in the future.
The rules will be similar to that of Pride, with men's fights being 20 minutes in length with rounds of ten minutes, five minutes and five minutes, and using the old Pride judging criteria. Moves like soccer kicks and knees to the head of a downed opponent will be legal. The fights will be fought inside a ring, but the ring would have five ropes instead of three or four. Women's fights will be three five minute rounds. There will also be non-MMA rules fights, such as kickboxing fights, on the December shows.
Sakakibara was looking to link the world's of amateur wrestling, pro wrestling, MMA, Jiu Jitsu and kickboxing. Appearing from pro wrestling were Sakuraba and Nobuhiko Takada, who will be a figurehead officer such as in the heyday of Pride. Tomiaki Fukuta, the chairman of the Japanese amateur wrestling association was also there.
Rena Kubota, a female star of kickboxing and Shoot boxing promotions in Japan will debut in MMA, as will Gabi Garcia, a ridiculously muscular world super heavyweight Jiu Jitsu champion.
The main event on 12/29 pits Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Shinya Aoki in a battle of Japan's original submission king against Japan's current submission star. Aoki, who is smaller than Sakuraba, is the current One lightweight champion.
Also at the press conference were Scott Coker from Bellator and Jon Slusser of Spike TV. Coker said that Bellator fighters would be on the show and that Sean Grande and Jimmy Smith would be announcing.
Sakakibara said talent would come from Bellator, BAMMA, KSW, Bushido, Jungle Fight, Desert Force, Deep, Shoot, Pancrase and ZST promotions.
No opponent was named for Emelianenko. MMA Fighting had reported Jaideep Singh, a kickboxer who has only fought once in MMA, as the foe.