The news released today by K-1 that the Final 16 would take place in China with It's Showtime's support was not a shock to those who have their finger on the pulse with K-1, at least partially. FEG producer Tanikawa has been saying for months and months that K-1 was going to promote a show in China, and many had simply written that off as Tanikawa-speak, as he has been known to say big things and deliver only in small doses. Then rumors came from fighters that K-1 would promote the World Grand Prix Final 16 in October, as well as K-1's rights being transferred to a real estate company in Japan. All of this came while there were incredibly strong rumors of a Dutch company outright purchasing K-1 for their own needs and completely transforming the whole business. What it came down to was there were a lot of rumors about K-1's future and not a lot of public movement until the past few weeks.
K-1 ultimately decided to move forward with the K-1 World Grand Prix Final 16 in China in the month of October, and the talks of their new buyer went from very serious to people snickering at the concept behind the scenes as K-1 marched forward. K-1 and It's Showtime had a very public falling out during mid-2011, with Simon Rutz discussing how K-1 pulling out of their May Amsterdam ArenA event hurt his business, how K-1 owed him money and how they'd move on without K-1. Insiders with FEG claimed that Simon Rutz had "killed K-1" and Tanikawa decided to ban anyone who fought for It's Showtime's co-promoted events with REBELS and M-1 Muay Thai in Japan from competing in K-1 again. Eventually both sides backed down, but it was still a bombshell today when K-1 announced that It's Showtime was co-promoting the Final 16 with around eleven It's Showtime fighters being in the Final 16. A lot of the fighters have fight contracts with It's Showtime, but not management contracts, which makes it seem like the fights for K-1 will fulfill a part of their It's Showtime contract as opposed to a contract to fight with K-1. From an operational standpoint, that makes sense, as does It's Showtime taking proceeds from the show as It's Showtime is owed a good chunk of money from K-1.
This of course begs the very serious question of where do Golden Glory stand in all of this? Bas Boon's name was thrown around, but mainly when it came to bringing in Semmy Schilt to the tournament, as there are a host of other top names from Golden Glory who should by all means be competing in the Final 16 including Gokhan Saki, Errol Zimmerman and the freshly-signed Mark Miller. From what it appears, K-1 is working with It's Showtime as their premier partner from Europe, with Golden Glory as an afterthought. K-1 owes money to both Golden Glory and It's Showtime, so it isn't clear what kind of financial gain It's Showtime makes from this show, if any, or if simply moving the brand into a new market is a driving factor
The other big issue is that K-1 will be promoting in China, where they usually promote the Final 16 in Seoul, Korea. They also made mention of the Final 8 happening in China or another asian country, not specifically ruling out Japan, but not mentioning it, either. That is of course curious as Japan has been the home of the K-1 World Grand Prix since its inception in 1993. A revealing factor is their partnership with a Chinese television network and that there is still no word on a Japanese television deal as of press time. This is not a bad idea, though, as China is an emerging market in the global economy, taking a stance as a clear-cut leader and the entertainment world should not be left out.
Japan on the other hand is in a state of extreme decline following a slump and the devastating earthquakes and tsunamis that left the country in disarray earlier this year. There are signs in many facets of the entertainment industry to Japan being considered less and less of a major player where as it has traditionally been one of the few hubs for the entertainment world. The Mixed Martial Arts world has officially moved on from Japan, with UFC's global footprint growing all the time and promotions popping up in other asian countries like Road FC and One FC that are primed to take the spotlight from Japan. Another industry that has been scaling back in Japan has been surprisingly the video game industry, once a juggernaut in Japan. There was a decision over the summer to pull Microsoft's Xbox 360 consoles from shelves due to slow sales and Microsoft's response was one of indifference, claiming that Japan is inconsequential in the global market right now. As early as ten years ago a game console selling poorly in Japan, like Sega's Dreamcast, meant an absolute death, and now it means a small profit margin loss that can be made up for in other places.
K-1 has taken some heavy losses over the past few years doing business in Japan, but markets like China and Korea have been reaching out to them and providing them with healthier profits. It does not come as a shock that K-1 would shift its focus, especially for Heavyweights to other parts of the world. Japan has always been weak in the Heavyweight division, with only Kyotaro fighting for K-1 currently in that division and Japan being a culture that tends to look for national heros in all of their forms of entertainment.