After UFC’s first event in Japan, Dana White has repeatedly stated that he wished to return there for another event, but is blaming “dirty, sneaky, bad guys” for the UFC not returning.
DREAM lightweight champ Shinya Aoki stated that he feels that the UFC has their work cut out for them when it comes to succeeding in his native country of Japan.
“I think the UFC in Japan will not be successful,” Aoki told MMA Junkie earlier this week via translator “It’s a very special market.”
Next week will be the third year mark since the UFC bought PRIDE Fighting Championships. After the purchase, many expected the promotion would use PRIDE as a way to enter the Japanese market, either by continuing to host events using the PRIDE banner or merely “rebranding” the Japanese organization.
Unfortunately, PRIDE had a falling out and had to let all of its employees go, including Aoki, who was now out of a job.
White stated later on that he had hoped to keep PRIDE going, but the people surrounding the organization did not want to give up control.
“We brought PRIDE to keep PRIDE running,” White said this past July. “But that wasn’t their plan over there. That was their plan when they were sitting across a table from us telling us when we were buying it, but they had other plans. They can shut things off and basically do whatever they want over there.”
Oddly enough, Aoki refused to sign with the UFC, but he said he’d love to have a fight with BJ Penn and respects the UFC.
About a year later, the former PRIDE team along with some members of Fight Entertainment Group [promotion behind K-1], formed what we now know as DREAM. Aoki joined and eventually won his spot as lightweight champ.
The last time the UFC was in Japan was for UFC 29 in late 2000. And Aoki stated recently that he feels only Japanese-based organizations such as DREAM, World Victory Road, and DEEP-will do well in the Japanese market.
Nearly a year ago in August, Strikeforce and Dream decided to team up, in hopes they could “borrow” each-others fighters. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, made it clear he wants to get his hands on Aoki.
But Aoki also made himself clear stating that he doesn’t think the U.S. is the best place for fights;
“It’s not a goal because I don’t think the U.S. (is) the No. 1 (place to fight in the world),” he said. “I feel DREAM is No. 1.”
White still feels that the UFC will get it’s chance to make a mark on Japan though,
“They’re going to have to kill me,” White said. “That’s where they’re going to have to do. We’re coming there no matter what. We’re coming there. We’re going to break through this thing. We’re going to get past these dirty, sneaky, bad guys in Japan, and we’re going to make it happen.”