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K-1 is bigger than the UFC

By now everyone’s heard the rumors that Fedor has signed with HERO’s, rumors which of course have been denied by everyone with any insight into the real situation at the moment. But there was something I read in one article that peaked my interest:

Such a signing is indeed possible for Hero’s, which is backed by the mighty K-1 organisation – the Worlds largest Mixed Martial Arts events organisers – yes bigger even than the UFC. K-1 typically get 40,000 – 50,000 live spectators at their largest events in Japan, and their events are screened live on terrestrial television to millions of loyal Japanese fans.

Hmmm. K-1 bigger than the UFC? Is that actually true in any sense? Do they make more money? Do they draw more people over the course of a year? Do more events? Reach more people? Any insight is helpful. I spent 15 minutes on Google and Wikipedia looking into that but then started reading about flying squirrels. The term flying squirrel is actually kinda misleading, as the squirrels actually glide, not fly. So long story short: any insight into the question is appreciated.

  • K-1 certainly makes significant money on free-to-air TV deals (anywhere from $2-5 million USD for a standard show, either the heavyweights or the World MAX guys). On New Year’s Eve, they get paid a lot of cash by Tokyo Broadcasting System because that’s a big TV ratings war in Japan.

    UFC makes more money on PPV (which is not a good market in Japan, they are so accustomed to free-to-air TV and not paying money for good content, especially if they have to buy a satellite), hence they keep more in-pocket. Both K-1 and UFC struggle a bit when it comes to live-event promotion, for varying reasons.

  • sonzai says:

    Don’t know numbers, but having lived for a while in Japan, I can attest to it’s cultural impact. It’s bigger in that regard for sure. The fighters do all sorts of commercials for products other than Xyience-like energy drinks. I once had a Jp girlfriend ask if I liked K-1 as her test as to how “manly” I was (actual response from her when I said I did: “I think real men like it”). When I was first there (’97-00) and I wanted to explain that I liked MMA (UFC back then) I had to use K-1 as shorthand because I couldn’t really explain what UFC was. On New Years Eve (Jp’s biggest TV night–think Superbowl), most (especially young) men watch K-1. Baseball is #1, soccer #2 and then K-1, sumo, volleyball and Olympic sports after that. When it’s on regular TV, it’s on the equivalent of NBC/CBS/ABC/Fox/CTV, not a cable channel like Spike.

  • groda says:

    Pfft gliding squirrels yeah right, It’s obviously some sort of infernal combustion engine powering the anti-gravity whatshamacallit, can’t put one over on me frenchie.

    p.s. As for insight, K-1 is pretty big, I hear they do some kind of slap-fighting so it’s probably almost as big as midget wrestling. Hope it helps.

    Since k-1 is shown on eurosport all over europe that might bring up the total viewership a tad.

  • Jonathan says:

    I concur with Sanzai. At my University, we have alot of Japanese, and most, if not all of them, have heard of and/or watched K-1…even if they do not like “kaktougi”. It is bigger in the financial sense and cultural sense as well.

  • Royal B. says:

    K-1 is the largest fighting organization in Asia, Oceania and parts of Europe. The largest free to air rating was 16.0 . That was during the KID Yamamoto/MASATO: The Living Brand fight back in…I believe ’05.

    While their WGPs are good, they still haven’t figured out MMA yet. This their….12th outting and there still isn’t any clear cut champions yet. And as soon as they don’t do a GP like event, they can’t make a normal card. It’s like watching an episode of SUPERSTARS. It’s almost all squash matches. This is even driving Akira Maeda, head of the MMA division up the wall.

  • John says:

    K-1 is pretty big so i guess HERO’S is gonna fill in for Pride for MMA over there. It seems like theres less publicity for each fight like there is in the UFC. I mean that as in it seems like theres less grudge matches and rematches belt swaping and other drama. Plus Bob Sapp.

    I shot a flying squirrel once, accidentally

  • Fred says:

    Absolutely. K-1 makes more money. K-1 does more events per year. They draw MUCH larger crowds. The UFC is great, but the UFC is not the be-all, end-all in MMA, even now.