Just like the PRIDE days, Nobuyuki Sakakibara understands what needs to be done for any event or promotion to do well in the Japanese market.
Score a high TV rating. The country like Japan where two national stations and five networks basically dominate the entire TV market, proving to be bankable content in TV is the ticket for a success.
*One out five networks, TV Tokyo, reaches only kanto area so its technically not "national".
In Japan, a former sumo wrestler named "Baruto" (his real name is Hoovelson Kaido) is a household name.
"Baruto" made a sumo debut in 2004. In 2006, he made it to tournament's "maku-uchi (middle ranks)". (majority of TV viewers watches only "maku-cuhi" ).
Eventually "Baruto" made it all the way to Ozeki (champion) in 2010, which is just a notch below Yokozuna (grand champion). This means, until "Baruto" retired in September of 2013, he was regularly on Japan's national channel, NHK, for little over seven years.
He was one of the very populars sumo wrestlers at the time too.
And now, "Baruto" is doing MMA.
Well, that's like, almost, a guaranteed high TV rating in Japan.
Regardless of the opponents, because, we can expect a majority of sumo fans that used to watch "Baruto" would tune in to check him out to see not just how he is going to be doing in MMA but also just simply to see how is he doing now.
Unlike the promotions outside Japan, even though its almost two months till the inaugural show, RIZIN has announced only one fight so far. However, the announcement like "Baruto" doing MMA somehow assures the fans that RIZIN have already secured something more than interesting but just not announcing them so soon.
Just like the PRIDE days.
December 29th & December 31st
At Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan
Doors Open – 14:30
Fight Starts – 16:00
Confirmed Cards (Subject to Change):
10 min / 1R 5 min / 2 & 3 R
Kazushi Sakuraba (Japan / Freelance) vs Shinya Aoki (Japan / Evolve MMA)
*contract weight will be announced on a later date.
Heavyweight Tournament Opening Round Bouts
Heavyweight Tournament Semi-Fina & Final
Confirmed to Fight:
Emelianenko Fedor (Russia)
RENA (Japan / Cesar Gym)
Gabi Garcia (Brazil)
Hoovelson Kaido (Estonia)
Report by Shu Hirata
Photo courtesy of Bout Review (www.boutreview.com)