This week Nobuyuki Sakakibara gave a detailed two part interview with Gong Magazine in Japan (read part one here). In the second part he talked about wanting to cross promote with the UFC, ONE Championship and Bellator to bring Conor Mcgregor to Japan.

The 2020 Olympics was scheduled to take place in Tokyo this summer. That will no longer be happening and Sakakibara wants the world’s biggest MMA promotions to come together and fill the void,

“As a federation, Rizin is calling for the co-operation of all the promotions to come together to make a stack of dream matchups. Of course, Scott Coker from Bellator is in, and I’d like to put it to the UFC and others too. This would be an excellent time to bring Conor McGregor in. ONE Championship would also be great to have on board, but don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that as if we’re above them.”

While Bellator and Rizin have a long history of working together it is highly unlikely that the other two promotions would be interested. But Sakakibara dreams of putting on a card like Pride Shockwave Dynamite! which drew over 90,000 people to Tokyo’s national stadium,

“In 2002 Dynamite! happened with the joint effort of K-1, Pride, and Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye. That was nearly 20 years ago so we’re proposing a ‘Midsummer Martial Arts Festival’ with everyone involved,” he said.

Rizin

Olympic ambitions

Sakakibara acknowledged that this idea was very much in its infancy and he hadn’t approached all the other promotions yet,

“I won’t know until I ask, but I can’t be shy about it. We haven’t faced these circumstances before, so now I think it’s the right time to take action together (but) to be honest, the specifics of that are yet to come. ”

He also pointed out that all the venues which had been prepared for the Tokyo Olympics would be going unused and hopes Rizin can make full use of them,

“Of course, assuming the coronavirus situation eases off, we want to first do one show this summer. If the new Olympic Stadium is not being used, it would be a waste, so we feel it would be right to do a ‘Martial Arts Olympics’ in Japan. The Saitama Super Arena, Yoyogi Stadium and the new Ariake Arena will be unused this summer so we’d like to make good use of them.”

If he can’t get the world’s biggest promotions to cooperate Sakakibara suggested that he would be willing to work exclusively with local partners to put on an Olympic style series of events,

“The Tokyo Olympics postponement, may give us the opportunity to give the martial arts world a dream show. It really doesn’t even have to be called a Rizin event. Give it a one-off title, set up various dream matches, and make it a reality. K-1, Rise, Shoot Boxing, and other promotions can come together and be united as one. I feel this is the right timing. It’s a time to put aside selfishness and pride, and do something now.”

Rizin

Positive outlook

The prospect of K-1 and Rizin working together is a mouthwatering one as it could make the dream kickboxing matchup between Tenshin Nasukawa and Takeru a reality. That subject didn’t come up but Sakakibara is determined to show fans and fighters that there is light at the end of the tunnel,

“I don’t want the recent press conference announcement of cancellations to end on a negative note. I don’t want the fans to think the lights have gone out, so we’re going to work together (with other promotions). We have common goals, so I’ve made a proposal. The next three or four months will see things shaping up.”

Sakakibara is nothing if not optimistic. But even he acknowledges that there is no guarantee it will be possible to hold a large scale public event in the summer,

“An event would give them the fighters motivation for the summer. It would give them goals even with the gyms empty right now. Their bodies are their income, so they can’t rest. If that doesn’t happen, autumn, and if that doesn’t happen, New Year’s Eve. That all depends on the coronavirus situation, so we have to be flexible, but first of all I’m suggesting three to four months from now.”

Rizin

Midsummer matches

In part one of the interview he spoke at length about the Manel Kape situation. Finding a new champion will be high on Sakakibara’s ‘to do’ list once the fighting season resumes,

“After all the drama in the bantamweight division it’s pity that Kape is leaving. He was an important part, but the division is stacked so now we have to fill the hole he left. I think that we’ll create a new story, so we’re considering options while also listening to the fans’ opinions.”

He ran the rule over a few of those options,

“We won’t do an interim belt, it’ll be a championship match with Hiromasa Ogikubo who was next in line to challenge the title. The question is who, and we’re still thinking about it, Victor Henry and Kai Asakura are both good options (and) I think Patrick Mix would give a great fight. The bantamweight division really is a treasure trove right now, so please look forward to what we have in store.”

Sakakibara was less upbeat when discussing the financial impact which the current coronavirus, or Covid-19, shutdown would have on Rizin. He acknowledged that the promotion’s long term survival was at stake,

“We’re doing our best to set things up in the next three months but if the situation continues longer we won’t be able to survive. Without any support from the government it may be necessary to go to crowd funding and get help from all the fans who have a shared interest. Fans who love martial arts might be able to help us survive this tough time and with the right timing we can do our best to give back to the fans with a Martial Arts Midsummer Festival.”