Smackgirl Postponed, Financial Problems Possible

By Jordan Breen and Tony Loiseleur Jul 10, 2008
Another Japanese MMA promotion may have troubled waters ahead.

With Smackgirl originally scheduled to stage its 2008 ReMix tournament finales at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo on July 24, has confirmed that the event has been tentatively postponed until Sept. 21, according to Smackgirl public relations officer Masao Katsui.

After landmark open-weight tournaments held under the ReMix banner in 2000 and 2004, Smackgirl tailored its 2008 program around two ReMix tournaments: one at 115 pounds and the other at open-weight. In the 115-pound final, undefeated star Megumi Fujii (Pictures) was set to meet Brazilian stalwart Ana Michelle Tavares (Pictures) in a rematch of their March 2005 battle, where "Mega Megu" handed the Nova Uniao standout her first loss. In the open-weight category, former Smackgirl 128-pound queen Hitomi Akano (Pictures) was set to square off with Josh Barnett (Pictures) disciple Ginele Marquez (Pictures).

When inquiries were made as to the reasons behind the postponement, Katsui was hesitant to answer.

"Due to circumstances beyond our control, we cannot comment any further than [the postponement]," Katsui said.

In 2000, the ReMix promotion staged a groundbreaking open-weight tournament that put female MMA on the map, especially in Japan. While ReMix only promoted two events, the promotion eventually morphed into Smackgirl in May 2001.

Smackgirl has since promoted more than 50 MMA and grappling events in Japan while housing many of the sport's top female talents, including Megumi Fujii (Pictures), Yuka Tsuji (Pictures), Tara Larosa (Pictures), Amanda Buckner (Pictures), Takayo Hashi (Pictures), Roxanne Modafferi (Pictures) and Marloes Coenen (Pictures) among others.

Perhaps none too surprisingly with evasive statements from the promotion's brass, there are rumblings of financial trouble for Japan's foremost female promotion.

A strong source within the Japanese MMA industry has revealed to that Smackgirl's recent financial troubles are the result of a prominent sponsor pulling its support of the promotion. According to the source, the undisclosed sponsor, thought to be an Australian-Japanese information technology company, was responsible for the funding that allowed Smackgirl to forge a relationship with BS Fuji, a digital television channel affiliated with Fuji Television, one of Japan's six major broadcasters.

Although Smackgirl events have aired in the past on J-Sports, Japan's ESPN affiliate, the Feb. 14 ReMix tournament opener aired on BS Fuji. However, according to the source, the aforementioned sponsor pulled its support immediately following the February card.

As a result, the April 25 Smackgirl card did not get a BS Fuji telecast. Given the costs of production and programming, the source estimates that Smackgirl may have spent in the realm of $100,000 USD to get its February event on BS Fuji, and, without sponsorship to recoup those costs, may be facing much of the bill themselves.

When asked for comment on the claims that the promotion had been facing sponsorship trouble, Katsui stated simply, "That is only an assumption."

While Smackgirl is expected to issue a full press release to Japanese MMA outlets later this week, Smackgirl President Motoki Shino made a statement on his personal blog on Tuesday: "The Smackgirl World ReMix Tournament 2008 card that was scheduled on July 24, 2008 at Korakuen Hall, has been postponed due to circumstances beyond our control. It is our deepest apology to the people who were looking forward to this event, as well as to related parties, but we would like to postpone the card to Sunday, September 21.

"To tell you honestly, our situation is not easy, but I would like to continue this event," Shino elaborated. "I have not changed my intent to continue to support Women's MMA, and I have already started to correct the course of my plans and to strengthen our organization.

"I am moving around overseas," continued Shino, who noted that he is currently in the Los Angeles area. "I would like to lay out the framework and make it more exciting."

While the woes of Smackgirl may not portend well for female MMA in Japan, has also learned that omnipresent Japanese promoter Shigeru Saeki is interested in fortifying Deep's female MMA product.

The source has told Sherdog that Saeki, the leader of the Deep promotion who has also served within Pride and currently Dream, is looking to promote more female MMA under the Deep banner.

Deep's two current queens, 99-pound champion Satoko Shinashi (Pictures) and 106-pound Miku Matsumoto (Pictures), will be promoted as the promotion's aces. Former Deep champion and highlight reel KO queen Hisae Watanabe (Pictures), who retired from the sport earlier this year, may be tabbed to serve in an "event producer" role for the promotion.
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