The Japanese MMA scene has been held together, MacGyver style, with duct tape, spit, hope and a prayer. Those prayers have seemingly remained unanswered, as it appears more and more likely that FEG, the parent company of K-1 and Dream, is effectively dead as a major player on the world scene. Another fighter has joined the ranks of those claiming FEG owes them significant money. And this time it's a big player, literally and metaphorically.
Frankly, it was one thing when former UFC and Pride star Gary Goodridge and Dream featherweight champion Bibiano Fernandes weren't being paid for their performances. Fans were suitably outraged, but only the fans who read stories about fringe figures in the fight game. Last week on MMA Live, lost in the flurry of Fedor Mania, Alistair Overeem made a startling confession. He hasn't been paid for his work either:
"I won K-1...and they've not paid me yet," Overeem told Jon Anik with a smile. "By the contract they have 48 hours to pay me. It's a little bit of a question mark."
Overeem wasn't the only fighter to go public last weekend. Bloody Elbow reader Brian Hemminger talked with Strikeforce lightweight JZ Cavalcante, who claims he's still owed money as well:
I still havenít been paid, man. The fight was in July and now weíre in February and now I donít even care about it, you know? My manager keeps calling them and the guys from FEG who are supposed to say something they donít answer the phones, they donít reply. Itís really disappointing.
... I wish they had more respect like they could come to me and say "look, we donít have the money now but we gonna pay this time or that time" because that is the problem. When they donít answer, they donít reply, they donít say anything. Thatís really disrespectful. Maybe getting the news out will help.
If K-1 is looking for a life raft, they shouldn't expect one from kickboxing promoter Simon Rutz. After running down a list of kickboxers who haven't been paid, he tells liverkick.com's Dave Walsh that he doesn't plan on buying his venerable competition:
LK: If they donít get that money, and they donít survive, what will it mean for kickboxing and for Itís Showtime?
SR: If they donít survive it is very bad for the sport and for many fighters. For Itís Showtime, it would mean that we are the number 1 kickboxing organization in the world and everybody will look to us. We are getting busy like never before. We have already seen a movement from K-1 to Itís Showtime. Almost every day I talk with people around the world who want to organize an Itís Showtime event in their country.
LK: Would you ever consider buying out K-1?
SR: Why should I do that? I have my own brand and company who is healthy and is going very well. Also, what am I buying then? Only a lot of problems! The [K-1] name is very strong, but I already have a good name. I will keep my money in my pocket!
We said last month that it looked like the MMA scene in Japan was on life support. Refusing to pay your biggest foreign star is like pulling the cord. Has K-1 just Kevorkian'ed the industry by not paying Overeem as promised? Sadly, it's looking like K-1, a promotion that has been one of the biggest combat sport extravaganzas in Japan since 1993, will be shuttering its doors for good.
Wow. Fighters are way more chill about this than I would be. The K-1 HW GP prize is like $400k, I thought. He actually fought for them on Dynamite, weeks after they had already missed their deadline to pay him. That's above and beyond being a man of your word for Alistair.