Fighting Entertainment Group (FEG) and Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE) have done it. Namely, they've merged to form an organization called DREAM. The idea behind DREAM is that it will serve as a replacement for the now defunct PRIDE and K-1 Hero's organizations. Want to talk demand? Well, according to FEG President Sadaharu Tanikawa they received, "over 3,000 signatures from fans who requested that we find a replacement for PRIDE."
Before we talk about how they plan on answering the call, it seem is in order. Namely, who are these groups that have come together to form DREAM.
Fighting Entertainment Group is the leading combat sports promoter in Japan. It is the company behind K-1 Kickboxing, which of course also makes it the company behind the now defunct Hero's mixed martial arts brand. Thus, they've been around the block with mixed martial arts before.
As was indicated earlier, their president is Sadaharu Tanikawa.
Dream Stage Entertainment was the parent company of the former PRIDE organization. Nobuyuki Sakakibara was its president and Keeichi Sasahara was second in command. Thus, any officials that have joined up in this venture from DSE?Sasahara was on hand at the press conference announcing the merger? certainly have an MMA background. Interestingly, one of the reasons that PRIDE fell was that it lost its television contract with Fuji Network in Japan on June 5, 2006 due to a perceived breach of contract. Further, this all happened amidst rumors that DSE was a front for a yakuza or Japanese Mafia group.
Perhaps the best part of this merger, however, is the fact that DREAM will take the place of Hero's in more ways than one. In other words, they will jump in on the TBS network television contract in Japan where the former left off, which is huge news for the new organization.
With television, they have a chance and there is seemingly more where that came from. But before we go into talking about where DREAM is going, we might want to dredge up some old problems for more background. For example, the sale of PRIDE is still not without issue. Namely, there's a lawsuit in the works.
The Fertitta Brothers and their lawsuit against Dream Stage Entertainment came out on February 1, 2008. Basically, it alleged that DSE did not live up to its non- compete clause and that they were not given millions of dollars due to them. DSE indicates that the UFC violated the sales agreement by not keeping the front office staff that the former PRIDE organization employed.
We say this, because the Fertittas and the UFC certainly can't be happy about hearing about DREAM right now. It will be interesting to see how things play out. Speaking of playing out, here's what we know from the press conference and various other sources regarding the future of DREAM.
First, M-1 Global plans on working with DREAM, which likely means that we can expect HDNet to show their events live. This on top of the TBS- Japan contract already in place puts DREAM way ahead of where PRIDE was before they fell. Second, they plan on holding Lightweight and Middleweight Grand Prix style events, starting with the lightweights.
Here are the lightweights already seemingly on board for the Grand Prix:
And on top of that star-studded cast, we also have Shinya Aoki taking on JZ Calvancanti in a huge match up. Further, DREAM has secured Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic? at least for a time? and Kazushi Sakuraba, Kiyoshi Tamura, Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, and Hayato "Mach" Sakurai are all expected to fight for the promotion in the near future.
Even better, Royce Gracie and Fedor Emelianenko appeared via satellite at the press conference and spoke of their desire to participate on future cards.
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovice vs. Fedor Emelianenko, anyone?
The final piece to the puzzle, of course, is that a Japanese rival has already sprouted up by the name of World Victory Road (WVR). WVR will have their "Sengoku" event on March 5 with the likes of Kazuo Misaki, Nick Thompson, and Kazuyuki Fujita on the card along with matches between Josh Barnett and Hidehiko Yoshida, and Takanori Gomi and Duane "Bang" Ludwig.
So the rollercoaster that is MMA continues with two Japanese contenders having sprouted up rather recently. By the way, if you're hoping to find a tentative schedule for DREAM, look no further than below:
DREAM 2008 Schedule
March 15th - HEIWA DREAM.1 Lightweight GP Opening
April 29th - OLYMPIA DREAM.2 Middleweight GP Opening
May 11th - HEIWA DREAM.3 Lightweight GP 2nd Round
Mid June - OLYMPIA DREAM.4 Middleweight GP 2nd Round
July 21st - HEIWA DREAM.5 Lightweight GP Finals
Late September - OLYMPIA DREAM.6 Middleweight GP Finals
Now what's better than that?