The UFC today announced its schedule of events for 2015. Japan could likely see its next event in September 19th or 26th, according to the new schedule here.
Top of the list on UFC Asia discussions is still UFC’s “The Ultimate Fighter” series. It has been a long-sought after product by the Japanese MMA market, given the country’s extremely well-developed organization of the sport. In mid-2014 the UFC revealed that it would indeed be holding a tournament close to the TUF concept in Japan.
How the series was to play out came as a surprise in the form of a co-promotional effort. The UFC announced in June of 2014 that they had “signed a ground-breaking development deal with [Shooto-organized Vale Tudo Japan] VTJ to promote and operate a new tournament series projected to premiere later this year.”
Tournaments would be held in the bantam- and featherweight divisions and go free-to-air on Japanese terrestrial television. The series would be modified from the traditional TUF format of house-sharing and two opposing teams, but back stories and weekly episodes would still be the staple.
UFC CEO Dana White said of the tournament format in a press release,
“Much like The Ultimate Fighter, this series will continue to cultivate and popularize top talent for us in new markets. The round-robin tournament concept is going to make for amazing fights, with a lot at stake.”
The tournament was expected to begin within 2014, however as September’s UFC Fight Night 52 in Tokyo approached, further details were yet to be revealed publicly from either UFC or VTJ. In the beginning of September, Asia MMA was presented with correspondence that indicated VTJ would no longer be involved in the potential UFC-backed tournament.
Therefore, during the prefight presser for UFC FN 52, we interviewed Joe Carr, Vice President of International Development for UFC and acting regional manager of sorts following the release of Mark Fischer. In that interview here, when queried on the VTJ co-promotion being scrapped, Carr would only confirm that all options – including a self-produced series – were now being considered,
“There were discussions with Vale Tudo earlier in the year… there were also discussions about potentially doing a traditional TUF format, but there’s nothing definitive yet, nothing to announce… but it’s a key priority for us. The big lynchpin on that deal is that we be on free-to-air TV with that program.”
Recently, Asia MMA followed up with Carr on the progression of the series, and he responded that a TUF Japan series would indeed be independently produced, and stated why it would be difficult for another promoter to be involved,
“Our plans for The Ultimate Fighter Japan are progressing, and we are now moving forward with producing the series independently. Even with UFC’s extensive experience in producing The Ultimate Fighter, to date 26 seasons, both in the US and internationally, there is enormous complexity involved: from the timing of production, the casting process, producing weekly sanctioned competitions, and capturing storylines. Partners also come to a project like this with their own set of needs and given the complexity entailed, the timing was not ideal for collaboration.”
Carr followed up with a statement on commitment to the Japanese market, and more details of the series,
“UFC’s goal remains to find the best Japanese fighters and introducing them to the widest possible audience with this locally produced tv series on free-tv. UFC’s production of this locally-focused series won’t follow The Ultimate Fighter model exactly – it will be a competition-based show – but not likely to follow the traditional model with 16 fighters living together in a house over several weeks.”
For the prospect of other UFC shows in Asia, follow this link.