Photo courtesy of FEG.
Rumors that Fight Entertainment Group and Dream Stage Entertainment were working together to create a new mixed martial arts promotion were confirmed earlier today as officials from both sides gathered at the Metropolitan Edmont Hotel in Tokyo, Japan to announce the creation of “DREAM”.
The promotion, which will also be run by officials involved with Yarennoka! and promoted by the Tokyo Broadcasting System, will now serve as the official successor for the PRIDE and K-1 Hero’s brands. K-1 announced plans for the discontinuation of Hero’s events late last month.
“Now that PRIDE and Hero’s are gone, we’ve wanted to put on new mixed martial arts shows that would continue the dream that was achieved on New Year’s Eve,” FEG President Sadaharu Tanikawa stated at the press conference. “We wanted to create a show that would be enjoyed by the fans and would make for an exciting live event. We received a petition including over 3,000 signatures from fans who requested that we find a replacement for PRIDE. We’ve answered their calls and we plan to put together something that no one has ever seen before.”
Matchmaker Keiichi Sasahara’s first order of business will be putting together the promotion’s first card, which will apparently feature a lightweight grand prix. The only announced bout for the event was a long-awaited showdown between Shinya Aoki and Gesias Calvancante, who were booked to face each other at Yarennoka!. The bout was scrapped after Calvancante re-injured his recently surgically repaired knee during training.
Additional participants for the tournament that were also announced included the following: Andre Dida, Mitsuhiro Ishida, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Caol Uno, Joachim Hansen, Gilbert Melendez, Kotetsu Boku, Artur Oumakhanov, Luiz “Buscape” Firmino, Jung Bu-Kyung, and Kazuyuki Miyata.
The event is currently slated to take place on March 15th at the Saitama Super Arena. Five other events including the remainder of the lightweight grand prix and a middleweight tournament were also announced.
The biggest surprise of the day came when heavyweight star Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic was introduced on stage. The native Croatian was recently under contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where he had lost two of his last three bouts, including a brutal knockout at the hands of Gabriel Gonzaga.
Filipovic assured fans that he was not “running away” from the UFC, but simply doing what was best for his career.
“I had a hard time losing my last two fights in the UFC,” said Filipovic. ” I don’t want anything to think that I’m running away from the UFC but I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with the rest of my career lately and right now I believe DREAM is the right place for me. I never liked fighting in the cage, always in a ring. Japan is also like my second home. Many reasons have brought me back here.”
The UFC has yet to make a public statement about the UFC’s departure. Various rumors concerning Filipovic’s contract status with the promotion have been floating around lately. Some have speculated that the UFC asked the Croatian to either restructure his contract or that they would release him. MMA Weekly reports that sources have said the split between the two sides was amicable.
Aside from Filipovic, a number of potential participants in future events were revealed. Kazushi Sakuraba, Kiyoshi Tamura, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, and Hayato “Mach” Sakurai are all expected to be fighting inside the promotion in the coming months. Royce Gracie and Fedor Emelianenko also appeared via satellite to make their intentions to compete at a future event known.
So how do the weight classes break down?
Surprisingly, they are strikingly similar to those that are currently used in the United States. The heavyweight, light heavyweight, and middleweight classes are exactly the same. Welterweights will compete at a maximum of 168 lbs while lightweight will be capped off at 154 lbs. Plans for lower weight classes are said to be discussed in the future.
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