MMA in Japan

In Japan, MMA and kickboxing are popular sports that are heavily covered by the media. But English-speaking fight fans do not have access to all this information. Some Americans try to report news from Japan, but they have language problems sometimes or they are not telling all sides of the story. This blog will give fans some of those news reports, and some observations too.


Fallout from Sakuraba x Akiyama

On January 11, FEG held a press conference to announce that Sakuraba x Akiyama would be ruled a no-contest, instead of the non-referee executive stoppage victory for Akiyama that everyone saw on TV on New Year's Eve.

FEG said that television footage revealed the slick substance that Sakuraba may have been complaining about. Akiyama said that the substance was just a skin cream, not vaseline or any other oily material that he knew to be forbidden by the rules.

As for the mysterious glove, it was explained at the press conference that the logo tends to fall off easily, and Akiyama must have lost it while warming up.

This is all FEG's official explanation. Of course, fight fans are not obligated to believe everything.


It seems that many American fight fans have not heard too much about the glove debate. To summarize, several observers in Japan have identified photographs or television stills that suggest that Akiyama's right glove (if not both) was larger than the official, standard glove. Some have argued that the glove was stretched out, or that a different glove was used to begin with, that contained sufficient space for Akiyama to "enhance" the glove. The pictures posted by Burning Spirit are interesting especially, although I think the brass knuckles are overboard. See also this crazy website. In any case, it was very possible for Akiyama to have had a cast-style wrap on his knuckles underneath the glove.

What about the logo falling off? It seems there were 10 Hero's rules matches on Dynamite, and to my knowledge all 9 victors who had their hands raised managed to keep the logo on not one, but both gloves. That's exactly what Edwin, the logo sponsor, is paying for after all. In fact, all 10 losers of those matches managed to keep the logo on their gloves too. So besides Akiyama, at least most of the other 19 fighters must have warmed up and then fought with the FEG-issued gloves that night, but not 1 of the 19 lost a glove logo in doing so. Perhaps those logos don't fall off as easily as they indicated in the press conference.


If my memory is correct, Tanigawa first indicated that FEG would reconsider the Sakuraba x Akiyama ruling in his conversation with reporters on January 8. The FEG meeting was scheduled for January 10. Sportsnavi reported Tanigawa's January 8 comments on the same day. Daily Sports reported them on January 9. But Tanigawa supposedly told the media not to talk about this issue.

Afterwards, the articles at Sportsnavi, Daily Sports, and every other media outlet disappeared. This happened due to pressure and a strong reprimand from Tanigawa and FEG, according to most sources. Was it right for Tanigawa to impose such conditions on the press?


Another set of problems center around Umeki, the referee of the Sakuraba x Akiyama fight. Umeki has been a referee for a very long time, with Pancrase, kickboxing, etc. The question about Umeki, like with Okabayashi in Sakuraba x Smirnovas, is whether he was under orders to do something, or to guide the fight in a certain way.

Umeki did not help things by the way he handled his personal blog. In a blog post from about 1 week before Dynamite, Umeki said that he returned late to home after a "referee camera test" for Dynamite and luxurious Korean dinner. He does not live in Tokyo, so he was given a taxi voucher to cover the more than $100 USD fare. Of course, he was not specific about who paid for his food and drinks and taxi, and nothing about what was talked about over dinner. To make things worse, when angry fans hijacked his blog by writing comment after comment, Umeki deleted this earlier blog post. The original post did not look "clean" to begin with, but Umeki probably made it look more incriminating by getting rid of it.

There was an old post on his blog too about getting a friend's TV for free, and that this would be the first time he has a TV in his apartment. Sometimes I agree that TV is bad and makes you stupid, but in this modern age, it's hard to imagine that someone does not have a TV at home. Besides, doesn't he have to watch videos once in a while as a referee, or even as a fan of fighting? Many of his blog hijackers conclude that referees must not get paid too much money. Are poorer people more vulnerable to bribes?


  • At 2:56 PM, Anonymous b said…

    This is "b".

    A few points.

    1. Is there an e-mail address that I can contact you at?

    2. Akiyama was videotaped backstage applying the skin cream by the TBS camera, according to Tanigawa. As such, there is no doubt about if or what he applied to his skin.

    3. Additionally, according to Tanigawa's own explanation, the cream was oil-based and if water were applied to it later, such as if a fighter were to sweat, then it would become very slippery. Tanigawa admitted that they tested the cream and it did, indeed, become "slippery when wet" (<-oh my goodness, that was so good, and yet so, so bad.)The cream also had a strong smell, as Sakuraba claimed in the fight.

    The full Japanese text of (not the abbreviated one you linked to) their conference is available here:

    4. The last post on Umeki's blog now has 17,500+ comments on it. I would bet that 99% of them are, err, less than nice.

  • At 10:47 PM, Blogger kaku said…

    hello b

    sorry i am so late to reply. you can contact me at however english please -- i need to practice. also, i am not always so good at checking messages.

    you are right about the details about this incident. i missed the sportsnavi transcript. thank you for extra information.


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