February 13, 2008
Mirko Cro Cop's tenure in UFC is officially over as he showed up at Wednesday's press conference at Hotel Metropolitan in Tokyo for the announcement of the debut of a new promotion.
Cro Cop said at the press conference that he was released from his UFC contract and said he would appear on the debut of a new group promoted by Fighting Entertainment Group (FEG) in Japan as a combined effort of K-1 and the former Pride promotion. The debut show takes place on March 15 at the Saitama Super Arena, the home base of the Pride group, which ran its final show in April before being sold to UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta.
The Fertitta Brothers filed a lawsuit on Feb. 1 against Dream Stage Entertainment, the former owners of Pride, and is president, Nobuyuki Sakakibara, alleging they were defrauded out of millions of dollars in the purchase and that the promotion violated its seven-year non-compete clause. The Japanese side claims that the Americans violated the sales agreement which promised that they would keep the front office staff of the defunct Pride promotion employed.
The UFC side was unable to get a Japanese television deal for Pride, nor get a viable U.S. television deal that they could promote off of.
Because of that, running a show in either Japan or the U.S. would have served no purpose but to burn money.
The new promotion will take the place of the Hero's promotion, and its network television deal with the TBS network in Japan.
Staff from K-1 and the former Pride staff, led by K-1 head Sadaharu Tanikawa and Keeichi Sasahara, who was Sakakibara's second in command in Pride, were at the event.
No matches were announced for the debut show.
Tanikawa announced that the Hero's promotion has closed and will be replaced by the new group, which would crown a lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight champion. He said a tournament would be started on the first show for the lightweight and middleweight titles. He said the heavyweight title would be a single match, likely involving Cro Cop.
Also at the press conference were the famous pro wrestler/fighters Kazushi Sakuraba, Masakatsu Funaki, Minowa-man and Kiyoshi Tamura, who will be the top native stars along with Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, Caol Uno, Hayato Sakurai and Yoshihiro Akiyama.
Videotape messages were played with Fedor Emelianenko and Royce Gracie saying they would fight with the new group, but didn't indicate they would be on the debut show. They announced a business relationship with
M-1 Global to book Emelianenko.
The group plans to run six or seven shows in 2008.
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