Takanori Gomi. Photo courtesy of World Victory Road.
At least in terms of matchmaking and signing fighters according to Jordan Breen:
WVR have made nominal attempts to snare some casual interest, using popular figures like the aforementioned Yoshida and Josh Barnett, playing into historical storylines with the use of Brazilian jiu-jitsu stars like Roger Gracie and Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro, and trying to build Japanese aces like Takanori Gomi and Kazuo Misaki. However, it’s extremely telling that the first-ever bout the promotion staged was Nick Thompson against Fabricio Monteiro—two rock-solid welterweights, both virtually unknown to non-hardcore fans.
These sorts of matchups typify Sengoku’s product. Despite the fact the promotion has yet to do anything even remotely close to turning a profit, WVR has consistently continued to craft an event that caters mostly to the most ardent cadre of MMA fans, the sorts with accounts to multiple MMA torrent websites, who find joy in live streams of D-level shows from the Midwest, and who are excited by the fact that WVR consistently chooses some of the most deserving-but-overlooked Japanese fighters, and unheralded-but-outstanding foreign talent to populate its card. For casual fans on either side of the Pacific, the charm is lost.
Short of signing a Japanese Olympian who, by dumb luck, happens to resound with the Japanese public, WVR has no hopes of making Sengoku profitable any time soon. WVR’s wealthy benefactors are essentially funding fight opportunities for MMA’s best unsigned and underrated talent. That sort of benevolence isn’t financially prudent, but it is invaluable to the sport; it is the mindset which allowed the likes of Satoru Kitaoka and Jorge Santiago to enter the spotlight from the fringes of their divisions, and will inevitably put a crop of great young featherweights on the map over the course of the year.
I couldn’t agree with Jordan more. International talent is prevalent in the promotion, but in terms of the Japanese scene, World Victory Road is essentially catering to the hardcore fan. Honestly, who isn’t thrilled that is finally getting a chance to prove whether or not his high ranking among featherweights is legitimate?
Will that way of going about business help “Sengoku” thrive though? Time will tell. WVR’s situation is similar to that of Affliction. Their reach in their location is large, but not nearly as big as their biggest competitor. (DREAM for WVR and UFC for Affliction obviously) The majority of fights put on by both feature names well known to MMA’s most ardent fans, but not those considered casual supporters of the sport.
However, both have impressive financial backing that will be able to have them last longer than the IFL or EliteXC did. If one finds success, chances are that the other will as well.