UFC to return to Japan for first time in over 10 years
Japan will host a UFC event in 2012 as part of planned expansion into Asia, president Dana White confirmed on Tuesday.
UFC 25 was the last event to be hosted in Japan, back in April 2000, but the organisation will return to the country on February 26, 2012.
The UFC, along with parent organisation Zuffa, have yet to decide whether the event at the 20,000 Super Arena in Saitama will be a 'Fight Night' or part of the numbered series - but White is promising a major spectacle with some big names.
"It's been over 10 years since a UFC event was held in Japan and we're pumped to bring the fastest growing sport in the world there once again," White said at the announcement. "Japan has played a huge roll in getting the sport to where it is today. UFC stars such as Rampage Jackson, Wanderlei Silva, [Antonio Rodrigo] "Minotauro" Nogueira all made names for themselves fighting in the Pride organization and dozens more fought in front of the passionate Japanese fans at some point in their careers.
"Japan has also produced world class fighters such as [Yoshihiro] Akiyama, [Takanori] Gomi and Yushin Okami. They have all headlined major UFC events all over the world. Now, this February, the wait is finally over - we're coming back to Japan."
Zuffa Asia executive vice-president Mark Fischer confirmed that it would be the first of many annual events in the country and region - and could see a number of the most high-profile Japanese fighters enter the Octagon on their home turf.
"Let me also say that while UFC Japan in 2012 will be the first event for Zuffa in Asia, it certainly won't be the last," said Fischer. "We hope to make UFC Japan an annual fixture on our calendar and we also have plans to follow-up with a series of high quality events across Asia."