Nobuyuki Sakakibara has been forced to deny accusations that he is involved in organized crime. The Rizin president was speaking at an emergency press conference which was called after Abema TV cancelled the broadcast deal for the upcoming kickboxing match between Tenshin Nasukawa and Takeru.

There was no English language translation offered but Twitter user Karaev Paul summarized Sakakibara’s comments in a detailed thread. The former Pride president and Rizin founder admitted that the allegations, which appeared in a Japanese tabloid, might have scuppered the television deal:

Extortion attempt

The event will be a co-promotion between Rizin, Rise and K-1. It is still set to go ahead on pay per view and the Tokyo Dome looks set to be completely sold out.

But it has not been a good month for Sakakibara. The Shukan Post reported that the Rizin president was being blackmailed by someone who had an audio recording of him discussing his links with organized crime.

According to the article a journalist attempted to extort the equivalent of $40,000 USD from Sakakibara. In return for the payment they were prepared to keep an audio recording in which he talked openly about Rizin employing a gangster but keeping him off the books.

Once again Karaev Paul has the details:

Historic links

The links between Pride and organized crime were first revealed by mainstream media in 2015. This led to the promotion losing its local TV deals and a couple of years later it was purchased by Zuffa which was the UFC’s parent company at the time.

The similarities between that scandal and this one are obvious. Rizin currently has a broadcast deal with Fuji TV but that could be in jeopardy if the network really has cut links with the promotion due to the latest allegations.

If Rizin was to lose its local broadcast deal, like Pride did, that would cast a lot of doubt over the promotion’s future. It is all a very unwelcome distraction ahead of what looks set to be the combat sports event of the year in Japan.

It is not the first controversy to engulf Rizin in recent months. Sakakibara was also forced to issue a public statement denying that the promotion was involved in match fixing.

Lucrative event

The bout between Tenshin and Takeru has been in the works for years but few believed that the talks would ever come to fruition. Three different promoters have had to come together in order to make the event possible.

It looked set to be a huge success with tickets selling out almost instantly. The event should still be lucrative with an audience of around 50,000 people in attendance at the Tokyo Dome and potentially even more people purchasing the pay per view.

Tenshin has already announced that he will be becoming a full time boxer after this fight. Meanwhile Takeru has an exclusive contract with K-1 so neither fighter is likely to be affected by this news, although it might mean the audience for their fight is much smaller.

But it does cast doubt over the long term survival of Rizin. Pride provided plenty of entertainment but could not survive the scandal when allegations about links to organized crime surfaced and history appears to be repeating itself.