Welcome to the latest “JMMA Monday” column. This week, we’ll be introducing a new monthly edition to the series: the reflection. This article gives us a chance to unpack JMMA topics from the past month in a quick-hitting format.
Each reflection will include three parts: looking back (a thought on something that just happened), looking forward (a thought on an upcoming event/ongoing news story), and a “bigger picture” message (a thought that takes into account everything – the past, the present and the future).
I’m hoping this column will allow us the chance to discuss the scene in an intriguing way once a month. Let’s begin
Looking Back: Good News Regarding JMMA On The International Stage
Just last week, the UFC roster added yet another Japanese MMA talent to its lineup.
Yusaku Kinoshita impressed many on Tuesday, earning a third-round finish against tough prospect Jose Henrique on “Dana White’s Contender Series.” The victory was Kinoshita’s sixth pro win, adding to a record that includes experience in Pancrase and DEEP Impact.
Kinoshita isn’t the first JMMA name to join the roster recently, and certainly won’t be the last.
Tatsuro Taira, a flyweight super-prospect, gained attention earlier this year when he won his UFC debut over Carlos Candelario. His second UFC bout is already booked and expected to take place on October 15th.
And the ongoing “Road To UFC” tournaments, which will sign four fighters by the end, still have a fair amount of JMMA representation in it. In the semi-finals of the four brackets, there are four Japanese names, and RIZIN alum Topnoi Kiwram is in there as well.
It feels like a new wave of talent is entering the international stage. As many names that are associated with older generations of JMMA are cycling out of the world stage, these promising fighters are on their way in.
All of these fighters are young and still have room to grow. How far can they go when representing the scene on an international scale? We’ll see.
Looking Forward: A Strong Numbered Card, And A Mysterious Afternoon Event
The puzzle pieces regarding RIZIN’s next event are coming together slowly. As it stands right now, we know a fair amount about their September 25th show, but still not everything.
We know that the numbered card, RIZIN 38, looks to be quite strong. It has the return of Kyoji Horiguchi, a big fight for Hiromasa Ougikubo, and the continuation of the RIZIN Super Atomweight Grand Prix. We know more will get announced, but that alone makes it a strong, Saitama Super Arena-worthy card to me.
The biggest question I have currently is what the promotion’s afternoon plan is. Before RIZIN 38, the “Super RIZIN” brand is expected to debut with its own short card. I can’t really say what this brand encapsulates, because I don’t really know right now.
Here’s what we know about that portion of the show: It will be headlined by an exhibition boxing bout between Mikuru Asakura and Floyd Mayweather. It will also have Yoshinari Nadaka on it.
What exactly the “Super RIZIN” brand will look to offer, we aren’t so sure about just yet. I personally wouldn’t be surprised if it’s focused around clout-heavy fights, hence why the Asakura fight is here and not later in the evening.
I’m a little lost on what “Super RIZIN” is supposed to be. But what I know is that RIZIN 38 delivers on what the quality of fights that viewers have come to expect from most numbered shows.
Bigger Picture: Where Are We Right Now?
I have a broad, general question that I would genuinely like to hear people’s answers regarding. When we think of the current time period that we’re in for JMMA, how could we define it? How do you think it will be remembered?
Previous time periods in JMMA can very easily be defined based on the dominant promotion at that time, plus other smaller factors. But now that RIZIN has been around for as long as it has, I’m beginning to think that its existence can be split into parts.
If I had to bookmark when a new era for RIZIN started, I would likely say 2021. The promotion started to focus on different offshoot shows like “LANDMARK” and “TRIGGER,” and has since then continued to alter its identity. We already know the RIZIN image will change further soon when they head to Hawaii for an event in 2022. Many names that defined RIZIN in recent years have left the promotion (most notably, Tenshin Nasukawa), leaving room for new names to take the spotlight. It feels like the brand as a whole is much different than what it was a few years back.
I’m interested in hearing the answer to a question that I can’t get until a long amount of time passes – frustrating, I know. But I’m curious how people will look back upon the time that we’re living through now. Will this be considered a good time for the scene? A time of growth? A decline? People are often critical of how the product has been recently for valid reasons – quantity over quality, many stars departing, and so on. But in the grand scheme of things how big will this time be considered?
I think about this question often, in part because I don’t know what my response would be. I am frequently critical of how things are right now, but I wonder how much my short-term gripes will add up to an actual overall decline.
If you think you have a way to define the current JMMA era, leave a note in the @KnockdownNews Twitter DMs or in the comments of this article. Your comment will get featured in a future article.
Other Notes From The Week
- In case you missed it, RIZIN had a press conference from Hawaii last week. It was quite bizzarre, mostly because of random cameos and odd moments (e.x. Ren Hiramoto being gassed up by Floyd Mayweather and helping translate for him).
- The biggest takeaway was that RIZIN plans to host an event in Hawaii next year. They’re already scouting local talent and have partnerships in place to host an event there.
- It’s pretty big that RIZIN is looking toward their first international event now.
- I covered the hard news along with the weird moments in this Twitter thread. A more serious article regarding the news is here.
- More details regarding RIZIN’s September 25th show will be revealed soon. A press conference is scheduled for noon on Tuesday in Japan (which is 11PM EDT tonight).
- I won’t be able to cover this one live sadly. The livestream link can be seen here.
- We actually have quite the busy weekend on the Japanese regional scene coming up…
- Pancrase will be over at the Tachikawa Stage Garden on Sunday. A title fight between veterans Koshi Matsumoto and Akira is set for the main event of that card. It’s a really strong show! Undefeated prospects Rei Tsuruya and Karen are lower on the bout order as well.
- DEEP has a doubleheader of events from the New Pier Hall in Tokyo set for this weekend. DEEP Jewels will start things off, presenting a seven-fight card. Then later that day, DEEP’s flyweight grand prix will continue with three more fights.
- A smaller regional card will also take place in Kagawa. The lineup provides a peek at some names we don’t usually hear about.
- Kanna Asakura addressed her loss to Park Si-woo in her latest Youtube video. The summary: She’s not retired, but she won’t fight for a while (how long that means, I guess we’ll see).
- I was recently a guest on the “High Kicks & Armbars” podcast, featuring good friends Babalu Jack and Charlie Jewett. It was great chatting with them about the upcoming RIZIN card, plus other JMMA topics. Here’s the link to hear the podcast!
- One note: This came out before the recent RIZIN Hawaii presser, so those topics aren’t touched on during it. However, I still think it was a fun discussion that was filled with banter.
- The We Are RIZIN podcast returned this week with a discussion on the latest RIZIN press conference. A worthy event to get its own episode, I feel! You can give it a listen here.
- RIZIN CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara met Scott Coker while in Hawaii.
- Here’s a special note for anyone who got to the end of this article: I’m wrapping up these notes on early Monday morning. I just got out of a Zoom call with Hiromasa Ougikubo, who is fighting later this month at RIZIN 38. He had some very interesting stuff to say regarding his New Year’s Eve performance and where he is as a fighter right now. My conversation with him will get turned into a feature for next week’s column. I’m looking forward to publishing it, and I hope you are interested in reading it!