Why RIZIN Matters

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.

https://twitter.com/allelbows/status/993014703956807680

 

 

RIZIN Cards with Attendance (by Year)

 

1Rizin World Grand Prix 2015: Part 1 – SarabaDecember 29, 2015Saitama Super ArenaJapan Saitama, Japan12,214
2Rizin World Grand Prix 2015: Part 2 – IzaDecember 31, 2015Saitama Super ArenaJapan Saitama, Japan18,365

 

1Rizin 1April 17, 2016Nippon Gaishi HallJapan Nagoya, Japan7,291
2Rizin World Grand Prix 2016: 1st RoundSeptember 25, 2016Saitama Super ArenaJapan Saitama, Japan15,011
3Rizin World Grand Prix 2016: 2nd RoundDecember 29, 2016Saitama Super ArenaJapan Saitama, Japan16,642
4Rizin World Grand Prix 2016: Final RoundDecember 31, 2016Saitama Super ArenaJapan Saitama, Japan19,357

 

1Rizin 2017 in Yokohama: SakuraApril 16, 2017Yokohama ArenaJapan YokohamaJapan12,729
2Rizin World Grand Prix 2017: Opening Round – Part 1July 30, 2017Saitama Super ArenaJapan SaitamaJapan17,730
3Rizin World Grand Prix 2017: Opening Round – Part 2October 15, 2017Marine Messe FukuokaJapan FukuokaJapan7,732
4Rizin World Grand Prix 2017: 2nd RoundDecember 29, 2017Saitama Super ArenaJapan Saitama, Japan15,539
5Rizin World Grand Prix 2017: Final RoundDecember 31, 2017Saitama Super ArenaJapan Saitama, Japan18,316

 

1Rizin 10- FukuokaMay 6, 2018Marine Messe FukuokaJapan FukuokaJapan7,910
2Rizin 11 – SaitamaJuly 29, 2018Saitama Super ArenaJapan SaitamaJapan
3Rizin 12 – Aichi – KenAugust 12, 2018Aichi Prefectural GymnasiumJapan NagoyaJapan
4Rizin 13 – SaitamaSeptember 30, 2018Saitama Super ArenaJapan SaitamaJapan
5Rizin 14 – SaitamaDecember 31, 2018Saitama Super ArenaJapan Saitama, Japan
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