JMMA Monday: What’s Next After ‘THE MATCH?’

Tenshin Nasukawa walks to the RIZIN ring.
Tenshin Nasukawa beat Takeru this weekend at “THE MATCH” (RIZIN FF)

This week’s “JMMA Monday” will focus on kickboxing, briefly discussing ‘THE MATCH’ and some fallout from it.

“THE MATCH” ended up being just as big as everyone hoped. Controversies, broadcast issues, and rulesets may have put a damper on things at times, but the event, in general, ended up being an incredibly popular (and lucrative!) endeavor.

The event, co-promoted by K-1 Japan, RISE Kickboxing, and RIZIN, was a long supercard of kickboxing that took place for numerous hours. However, it was one fight that generated nearly all of the attention: Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Takeru.

This bout, which was considered a “dream match” for many, saw two greats of this generation collide. It came just before Nasukawa’s departure from the sport, as he hopes to pursue a career in boxing soon.

For those who didn’t watch, it was Nasukawa who emerged victorious. After three rounds of action, it was a strong performance that included a knockdown that gave him the scorecard win.

It was a big moment for kickboxing that this event got to happen. The buzz around the event could be seen online and was undoubtedly also reflected by the packed Tokyo Dome venue.

“THE MATCH” is definitely a landmark moment in the history of these kickboxing promotions. But the question going forward is, what will it do for the future of the sport? Here are a few points I have brainstormed related to this idea.

Who is the face of Japanese kickboxing?

So Nasukawa has been given this “ride off into the sunset” moment this weekend. He beats what is considered to be his biggest challenge, keeps his record intact, and now gets to say any challenger that wants to face him must do so under boxing rules because that’s where you can find him now.

It’s neat storytelling, but it also provides a bittersweet reminder that this event was the end of an era. This was (or at least we’re being told it was) the last chapter in Nasukawa’s kickboxing career.

What does that mean for the future of the scene? Nasukawa, one of the most popular names in the sport, is out of the picture. Takeru could still be around, but it’s hard to tell what’s next for him. We’ll wait and see about that.

What I’m trying to say is that the spot to become the face of the sport might be open for the taking now. Who can earn it?

In the coming years, it will be interesting to see who becomes the clear face of kickboxing in Japan.

In the future, who will control what?

If there’s another thing worth mentioning, it’s that this event was co-promoted. In recent years at least, this was a rarity. K-1 Japan and RISE Kickboxing stuck to themselves, and their talents never got to intertwine. That changed this week, as “THE MATCH” was very much designed as a promotion vs. promotion show.

The barrier of co-promotion was broken down, but can it stay that way for long? It’s hard to tell. For one, this co-promotion happened because there was a clear incentive to make a fight that they knew would bring in millions of dollars worth of revenue. As it stands currently, it is hard to name another fight that can generate that much success.

Making “THE MATCH” might have formed a relationship between these promotions that will cause them to work together often. But on the flipside, it could also be possible that this type of cooperation won’t happen again until another big matchup can be made.

Personally, I think it all depends on what the goal is here for the promoters. Do they want to actually form a working relationship and make more shows together? Or were they simply coexisting because they knew a big payday was around the corner for all of them?

How can this momentum be carried on?

A Podcast About Kickboxing host ApparatusFlatus, also known as “Dogman,” said something on Twitter that stuck out to me. When talking about the positive results from the event, he said he hopes the promotions “find some way to turn this into momentum.”

This got me thinking. With so many eyes on kickboxing in Japan and a large cash injection into the sport from this event, what can be done to keep it going? It’s an important question to ask.

It would ruin the story of Nasukawa’s retirement, but do you do another match? Do you try to really push a name that won on the undercard?

Momentum is a scary thing in this case because you don’t know how much time you have with it. Will “THE MATCH” be forgotten by the public in a week? Probably not. But it’s better to follow up on something sooner than later if you want to build off what you have achieved.

“THE MATCH” will likely go down as the last part of a chapter in Japanese kickboxing. The next chapter has yet to be written, and it could go many different directions after what happened this weekend.

Other Notes From The Week

  • The big news early last week was that Floyd Mayweather will collaborate with RIZIN once again. Just like many expected, he’ll be facing MMA fighter Mikuru Asakura.
    • Their bout is scheduled to take place in September, with a specific date pending.
    • The ruleset for their combat sports bout is also pending… But let me be honest, I’m incredibly skeptical that it will be anything other than boxing.
    • I mentioned last week on Twitter that Asakura getting this fight is a testament to his popularity as a public figure. He’s not the most successful fighter in RIZIN, but he is undoubtedly one of their biggest names clout-wise. A lot of that can be credited to his highly successful Youtube channel.
  • RIZIN launched its own streaming service recently.
    • It was promoted at the recent Mayweather/Asakura presser as “RIZIN Fight Pass.” I couldn’t find it on Google with this title. Apparently, it’s actually called “RIZIN Stream Pass.” Got it.
    • I assume this is where international viewers will be watching the next event? I’ll try to get word on whether an English feed will still be available, or what’s the situation in general. I’ll make sure to include my findings in next week’s issue.
  • It was reported this week by GONG that RIZIN 37 will take place on July 31st at the Saitama Super Arena. No official word from RIZIN about this event yet, but I’d imagine a presser will get called sometime in the coming weeks. This will mark their first appearance at the venue since New Year’s Eve. Any predictions?
  • Shooto Japan has continued to add to their July 3rd show in Osaka. Seven more bouts were reported this week. More details.
  • Legendary DEEP Impact heavyweight Ryo Sakai is off their July 10th show due to an injury suffered in training. Replacing him against Yukinori Akazawa will be pro newcomer Andy Kong.
  • The International Report is back with a lot to cover…
    • On Friday night, three-fight RIZIN alum Teodoras Aukstuolis took his second loss in the PFL. This time he suffered a second-round submission defeat to UFC alum Omari Akhmedov.
    • Former RIZIN super atomweight Maria Oliveira picked up her first UFC victory Saturday, defeating Gloria de Paula via split decision.
    • Two JMMA names are competing on the PFL card this week. In the main event, RIZIN alum and 2021 PFL Heavyweight Champion, Bruno Cappelozza will face Matheus Scheffel. On the prelims, Shooto Japan vet Ryoji Kudo will look for his first promotional victory when he faces Alejandro Flores.
    • RIZIN vets Brennan Ward and Anatoly Tokov are set to appear at Bellator 282 on Friday night…
    • Jinh Yu Frey, a former rival of Ayaka Hamasaki, will return on Saturday night to face Vanessa Demopoulos on a UFC “Fight Night” card.
  • As always, I’ll end the notes with a random factoid from the week: Fuji TV talk show “ジャンクSPORTS” aired an episode Sunday that was based on rising athletes in sports. It had quite an eclectic collection of folks: a bodybuilder, a sumo wrestler, a breakdancer? It also had RIZIN’s Kota Miura and DEEP Jewels talent Kate Lotus.

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