(Photo courtesy of Sports Navi)
UFC held a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, March 10 to announce the broadcast of the upcoming "UFC Fight Night: Florian vs. Gomi" on Japanese network TV.
"UFC Fight Night: Florian vs. Gomi," scheduled for March 31 at Bojangles Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, will air on tape delay in Japan on April 8th during the one-hour prime time slot from 22:00 to 22:54 JST. The fight card features the debut of former Pride FC Lightweight champion, Takanori Gomi; also slated for appearance are prominent Japanese fighters, Caol Uno and Yushin Okami.
UFC events currently air on Pay-Per-View on the satellite broadcasting and pay TV station, WOWOW, in Japan. At the presser, Zuffa counsel, Jaime Pollack, announced the partnership with TV Tokyo, the smallest of the free-to-air broadcast networks.
Zuffa's initial foray into Japanese broadcast network took place in 2005 during Pride FC's heyday; the collaboration with TV Tokyo was short-lived and fruitless. Five years later, Zuffa renews the pursuit of the once-impervious Japanese market as its oversea expansion kicks into high gear.
Pollack told the press that Japan is the most highly coveted market in Asia in light of Zuffa's plan to increase the brand recognition in the region. With "big names" like Gomi, Uno, and Okami, Zuffa hopes to make the upcoming fight card in North Carolina a catalyst for popularizing the UFC brand in Japan.
The TV Tokyo sports executive in attendance announced an ambitious (read: unrealistic) goal for the station to attain a double-digit rating. To put the number in perspective, DREAM, Japan's premier MMA organization, recorded 16.2% average during prime time on TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) for the very successful DREAM 9; other DREAM events during the primetime slot have recorded around 10% average.
Zuffa's partnership with TV Tokyo is a great news for MMA enthusiasts in Japan; however, given the scarce following UFC has in Japan,capturing new fans, particularly among the large legion of casual fans, remains a daunting task.