World Series of Fighting President Ray Sefo announced at Saturday night’s WSOF 6 show that the organization plans to hold shows in Japan in early 2014.
Sefo said that the WSOF plans to team with Pancrase, one of the original MMA pioneers in Japan. Pancrase owner Masakazu Sakai stood alongside Sefo during the brief segment during the broadcast on Saturday.
“Japan is my second home,” Sefo said. “I love it there I am very excited.”
Sefo didn’t announce many details at the show. The Pancrase Japan website, however, has a picture of Sakai and Sefo shaking hands.
The WSOF launched a year ago on the NBC Sports Network and has slowly worked to build its brand. The company crowned its first welterweight world champion Saturday night, when Steve Carl upset Josh Burkman.
The Japanese market in the 1990s was a hotbed for MMA, with the popularity of organizations such as Pancrase and Pride Fighting Championship. Those organizations faded or went out of business altogether as the UFC rose in popularity.
The WSOF joins the UFC in its attempt to branch out internationally with MMA programming. The WSOF plans to hold its December show in Canada, while the UFC in 2013 staged a show in China and regularly visits Brazil.
The UFC is rumored to be planning a show for Mexico in 2014.
MMA has enjoyed wild popularity in the U.S. since the explosion of the UFC as a Pay-Per-View model. The success of the company sparked in a rise in competing MMA promotions, including Affliction and Strikeforce, which are both now out of business.
Bellator Fighting Championship and the WSOF are both looking to carve out their space in the marketplace.
The WSOF move to Japan signals that the company is looking at long-term growth and expansion into international markets. The WSOF also recently signed longtime Japanese UFC fighter Yushin Okami.
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