I imagine there is a small, but substantial, audience at MiddleEasy that doesn’t understand our obsession with RIZIN FC.
Of course, most of you shit eating wild-men are streaming it along with us into the early hours of Sunday morning. But I know a few just browse over our tweets the following morning, laughing at our excitement over some MMA and kickboxing fights happening half the planet away. What could be happening all the way in Japan that was better than the weekly stream of events from MMA’s most elite roster of talent at the UFC? Plus with Bellator, Invicta, LFA, Cage Warriors, Combate Americas, KSW, ACB, and countless other promotions across the world, what makes RIZIN so unique, so damn important? Aren’t they just another minor league, regional promotion?
Before I answer that, let’s think about what exactly happened his past weekend. In a major Japanese tourist city, fighters from nine different countries drew a local crowd just shy of 8,000. But for RIZIN everything revolves around their ability to capture Japanese television ratings. With recent events capturing 7% of the Japanese television audience, and all reports point toward this Fukuoka event matching those numbers. For a promotion with the mission to make world-class Mixed Martial Arts popular in Japan once again, it seems like RIZIN is finding its foothold. And toward that goal, they are making continuous strides. A card that did not feature a single Pride FC star managed to draw an substitive audience in Japan.
But why do we care if there is a market for world-class Mixed Martial Arts in Japan? Well, the answer to that is both historical and nostalgic. Japan’s role in martial arts is, of course, incalculable. Both the striking and grappling arts, have long histories in Japan. But even in regards to modern MMA, the first and oldest promotion no holds barred organization started in Japan. Pancrase status as the first mixed-rules promotion in the world means Japan will forever be linked to whatever MMA becomes. But it is another Japanese promotion that made Tokyo and the Saitama Super Arena a legendary place in combat sport. Pride FC’s New Years Eve fights in Saitama became an institution, a rare tradition in the amnesiac game of combat sports.
So, we need RIZIN. We need Japanese MMA alive and thriving. And more importantly than all of that, we need MMA to remember its history, while evolving for the future. How these RIZIN events are conducted, beyond just the pageantry and the production values, but the actual ethos of the organization and how it views and values fighting are in danger of disappearing. And that would be truly tragic.
Thankfully for us, RIZIN in 2018 seems to be resurging nicely. This year’s RIZIN schedule is almost Sumo inspired, with each event in Toyko being followed by a trip to either Fukuoka or Nagoya. RIZIN 10 was the first event to feature a return to a city that wasn’t Toyko. In October of 2017, RIZIN came to Fukuoka Prefecture with a card headlined by the first round of a women’s Atomweight tournament and Rena Kubuto. It’s was a real coming out party for Rena and pointed toward how RIZIN was going to focus on pushing its female athletes. That event drew 7700 people. RIZIN 10 drew an attendance of 7900. So the audience is sustainable and might even be ready to grow. This August, RIZIN will return to Nagoya as well, the first place outside of Toyko the promotion ever took an event. And finally, RIZIN has already secured a one night New Year’s Eve event at the legendary Saitama Super Arena. In the promotion’s third year, it seems like RIZIN is catching stride.
After twelve fight cards and nine different events, it might actually be safe to say RIZIN is here to stay (well, at least as long as anything “stays” in MMA). And praise be to the Combat Sports Gods for that. RIZIN is a truly a gift to MMA fans around the world.
Check out this drone Rizin uses to get footage for the event! pic.twitter.com/oN2tsonXHE
— Enson Inoue (@ensoninoue) May 6, 2018
If Kyoji Horiguchi had stayed in the UFC, he'd be criminally underpaid and forced to wear terrible fight kits for peanuts in sponsorship money. And none of these amazing performances in Rizin would have happened. Going to Rizin = A+ move.
— Robert Sargent (@MMARising) May 6, 2018
— FITE (@FiteTV) May 6, 2018
— Cerebral Vigilante (@Delisketo) May 6, 2018
For real, Japanese fighters ought not to bother with the UFC at this point. Dudes like Horiguchi, Gomi and Kawajiri have all gotten the star treatment in Rizin when they would've been stuck on Fight Pass or FS1. No reason to bother for them. https://t.co/ESuCaFlnzi
— Steven Rondina (@srondina) May 6, 2018
RIZIN Cards with Attendance (by Year)
|1||Rizin World Grand Prix 2015: Part 1 – Saraba||December 29, 2015||Saitama Super Arena||Saitama, Japan||12,214|
|2||Rizin World Grand Prix 2015: Part 2 – Iza||December 31, 2015||Saitama Super Arena||Saitama, Japan||18,365|
|1||Rizin 1||April 17, 2016||Nippon Gaishi Hall||Nagoya, Japan||7,291|
|2||Rizin World Grand Prix 2016: 1st Round||September 25, 2016||Saitama Super Arena||Saitama, Japan||15,011|
|3||Rizin World Grand Prix 2016: 2nd Round||December 29, 2016||Saitama Super Arena||Saitama, Japan||16,642|
|4||Rizin World Grand Prix 2016: Final Round||December 31, 2016||Saitama Super Arena||Saitama, Japan||19,357|
|1||Rizin 2017 in Yokohama: Sakura||April 16, 2017||Yokohama Arena||Yokohama, Japan||12,729|
|2||Rizin World Grand Prix 2017: Opening Round – Part 1||July 30, 2017||Saitama Super Arena||Saitama, Japan||17,730|
|3||Rizin World Grand Prix 2017: Opening Round – Part 2||October 15, 2017||Marine Messe Fukuoka||Fukuoka, Japan||7,732|
|4||Rizin World Grand Prix 2017: 2nd Round||December 29, 2017||Saitama Super Arena||Saitama, Japan||15,539|
|5||Rizin World Grand Prix 2017: Final Round||December 31, 2017||Saitama Super Arena||Saitama, Japan||18,316|
|1||Rizin 10- Fukuoka||May 6, 2018||Marine Messe Fukuoka||Fukuoka, Japan||7,910|
|2||Rizin 11 – Saitama||July 29, 2018||Saitama Super Arena||Saitama, Japan|
|3||Rizin 12 – Aichi – Ken||August 12, 2018||Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium||Nagoya, Japan|
|4||Rizin 13 – Saitama||September 30, 2018||Saitama Super Arena||Saitama, Japan|
|5||Rizin 14 – Saitama||December 31, 2018||Saitama Super Arena||Saitama, Japan|