In the first part of this series, we covered the smaller organization that arose out of the ashes of PRIDE Fighting Championships. Many of you probably noted that all of the organizations mentioned existed outside of Japan, with few or none of the former powerheads of PRIDE on their boards. In this series, weâ€™ll take a look at the two powerhouses that inherited the will of PRIDE on domestic soil, DREAM and WVR (more popularly known as Sengoku). Put on your kimonos and prepare to deny war crimes, because in this edition weâ€™re going all Japanese all day!
If PRIDE was a perfect union made in heaven, the DREAM is the hot twenty year old the dad married after the horrible divorce. Made up of former PRIDE executives and the famous FEG (Fighting Entertainment Group) that sponsored K-1 and PRIDE, DREAM has the biggest claim to be the successor of PRIDE. Remember the crazy ring announcer lady from PRIDE that made Bruce Buffer look like he was on training wheels? DREAM got that in the divorce. The showy entrances, music, and overall high production value are so close to PRIDE that itâ€™s enough to cause flashbacks. Thereâ€™s a solid stable of fighters, with many making their debuts ont he world stage. Ever heard of Gegard Mousasi, Shinya Aoki, or Maruis Zaromskis? None of them made their professional debut on the DREAM stage, but they were catapulted to world fame through their bouts in the organization. To put it simply, you may have lost your virginity to your fat cousin, but the conquest you talk the most about is the time you banged the Italian supermodel.
DREAM has also made headway into the US with organizational agreements with Strikeforce and HDNET. DREAM has been around since 2008 and has put out a steady diet of entertaining and significant fights, but what it has the same weakness as any home-grown Japanese organization: the absence of a domestic fan base.
If DREAM continues to put on great shows with entertaining clashes, hopefully more hometown fans will tune in, and that will get more sponsors to shell out money to increase their stable of fighters. If not, then the DREAM apple wonâ€™t fall far from the PRIDE tree.
Before any confusion occurs, letâ€™s make the distinction between WRC and Sengoku. World Victory Road is the name of the organization, Sengoku is the series of tournaments and fights WVR put on. Confused? Me too. So letâ€™s just call it Sengoku like everyone else in the world does.
Sengokuâ€™s claim to PRIDE fame was the acquisition of Takanori Gomi after PRIDE collapsed. With the Fireball Kid added to their stable, many fans turned their attention to Sengoku. Sengoku put on some good fights and did a good job getting fighters from neighboring countries (especially Korea) to fight on their cards. The Korean Zombie didnâ€™t get started in Sengoku, but he was noticed internationally fighting in their Featherweight Tournament. Also, it was during Sengoku that his Korean Zombie name was set in stone.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing Sengokuâ€™s main Sponger Don Quijote (yes, thatâ€™s seriously their sponsor, itâ€™s a convenience store chain) pulled their sponsorship, effectively ending Sengokuâ€™s ability to operate.
It should be noted that some original Japanese promotions are still alive and kicking, SHOOTO in particular. Started in 1985 as a shoot-wrestling organization, it soon expanded into MMA with a particular set of rules including standing eight counts from hits. Today, the organization uses unified rules and is known for its comprehensive and well structure amateur-to-pro infrastructure. Many future MMA superstars including Hayata â€œMachâ€ Sakurai, Kuniyoshi Hironaka, and Frank Trigg have all fought for this organization.
Itâ€™s unfortunate that the MMA bubble has burst in Japan, leaving many organizations by the wayside. With the UFC being the most powerful organization in the world, many Asian fighters are looking for contracts with the Zuffa owned organization. Whatever fate befalls Japanese MMA organizations, take heart in the fact that Japan is a martial country, and will always be training and producing great combat champions. Letâ€™s face it, we all miss PRIDE but thereâ€™s no point crying over spilt milk. So if youâ€™re like me, youâ€™ll cry into a bucket of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream while watching Royce Gracie vs. Sakuraba tonight, and tomorrow weâ€™ll see whatâ€™s going on in the UFC.