Big-show MMA is not yet dead in Japan.
Fighting and Entertainment Group on Thursday evening announced a long-rumored bantamweight grand prix, which begins on May 29 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The tournament, which has been titled the DREAM Japan Grand Prix, is expected to feature eight fighters: Keisuke Fujiwara, Masakazu Imanari, Yoshiro Maeda, Kenji Osawa, Takafumi Otsuka, Hideo Tokoro, Darren Uyenoyama and Atsushi Yamamoto.
The first and second rounds of the tournament are expected to take place in May, and the final round is currently scheduled for July. The top three finishers in the tournament secure slots in a planned DREAM world bantamweight grand prix.
The May 29 card is also expected to hose a few non-tournament bouts which could feature such competitors as Shinya Aoki, Joachim Hansen, Mitsuhiro Ishida, Katsunori Kikuno, Akiyo "Wicky" Nishiura and Caol Uno.
A press conference announcing the event also featured several Japanese promoters, who said they plan to band together to raise money for relief efforts in Japan following this past month's devastating earthquake.
Broadcast plans for the DREAM Japan Grand Prix have yet to be finalized, but it was revealed that the massive Saitama Super Arena will be scaled down to its smallest configuration, which accommodates approximately 7,000 fans.
FEG's most recent event was its traditional year-end offering, DREAM "Dynamite 2010!!" The promotion, however, has suffered well-documented financial struggles, and several fighters have in recent months come forward to complain they haven't been yet been paid.
) in January spoke with longtime Japanese MMA star Bob Sapp, who no-showed the New Year's Eve show and flatly said the promotion is broke.
At the same time, Japanese MMA blog Nightmare of Battle quoted an interview FEG executive Sadaharu Tanikawa gave to Japanese magazine "Sports Graphic Novel," in which the executive gave a dire assessment of FEG's future.
"The current course is that FEG will die," Tanikawa said. "There are probably staff members that will leave as well. The event name will be left but the promotion will change. If the current structure remains as it is it will be impossible to continue. If many investments from companies overseas do not come in we can’t survive."
With both ratings and attendance down in recent years, the Japanese fight promotion has been trying to raise additional funds through a recent partnership with PUJI Capital, an investment banking group, though it appears the success of those efforts has been minimal.