TOKYO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 06: (L-R) Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, Riki Fukuda, Takanori Gomi, Yushin Okami, Head of UFC Asia Marc Fischer, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Michihiro Omigawa, Hatsu Hioki and Takeya Mizugaki attend the UFC press conference at Shinjuku Wald 9 on September 6, 2011 in Tokyo, Japan. The UFC will hold the Japan Tournament on February 26, 2012. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)
Land of the rising mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is gearing up for a return to Japan in 2013, announcing on Nikkan Sports (via Asian MMA) a series of events lined up that will feature Japanese fighters competing on their home turf.
There's just one catch.
The overseas fight cards will be scaled down to reach a target audience of approximately 5,000 fans, and won't be numbered pay-per-views or FX/FUEL TV broadcasts.
So what are they?
Well, that remains to be seen, but will likely mimic a stateside regional show, except held under the UFC brand. The good news is, that also means adhering to the UFC standards of operation. Expect the local combat sports scene to be watching with vested interest.
Think TUF without the reality show drama.
Japan's MMA scene has been hot and cold since the dissolution of PRIDE. Smaller promotions like Shooto continue to operate, but DREAM turned into a nightmare and the UFC's return last February was the first in over ten years. Could the promotion be planting its seeds for a future stadium show with homegrown talent?