DREAM featherweight champ Bibiano Fernandes recently turned down an offer to fight at DREAM.16 in September. The reason? He still hasn’t been paid for his fight against Joachim Hansen from DREAM.13 in March.
Fernandes joins a growing list of fighters that DREAM has failed to compensate in a timely manner. Last week, Gary Goodridge revealed that he still hasn’t been paid for fighting Gegard Mousasi at last year’s Dynamite!! show, which is especially shameful considering he took the fight because he desperately needed the money. Other fighters such as Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Nick Diaz have experienced similar issues with DREAM in the past.
It seems it’s not only foreign fighters who have had problems either. According to Japanese MMA magazine Kamipro editor-in-chief Saito via NOB, DREAM is struggling to pay its Japanese fighters on time as well. Saito cited the following as contributing factors to (DREAM’s parent company) FEG’s financial issues.
* Due to the K-1 tax evasion in the past (which caused K-1 godfather Ishii to go to jail) additional tax has to be paid.
* The PRIDE Yakuza/Fuji TV scandal and the Akiyama greasing event lost them sponsors.
* Fight purses increasing.
* Decreased money from TV channels (last year it was down 30-50%).
Additionally, Head Kick Legend’s Dave Walsh points out other signs that FEG is hurting.
All of the stories coming from FEG have been very cautious, and the company has been alarmingly quiet since the last round of shows (K-1 MAX and DREAM.15), where usually there would be press conferences, leaked fights for upcoming cards and rumors in general about upcoming cards. Even Tanikawa, who usually lit up twitter daily has been quiet. The PUJI investment story is really all we’ve heard from K-1 lately, and all that talked about was an investment bank planning to help out FEG and some Japanese grandstanding about global expansion. Things first looked a bit off when the DREAM in Korea show was called off and there was something about a television deal falling through and FEG having to negotiate a brand new contract.
The planning K-1 World Grand Prix format for this year also mysteriously fell through, with the Eastern Europe GP falling through, the Asia GP not happening and the Final 16 Qualifying Tournament not happening, either. If you look at the graph in the last link, the K-1 World Grand Prix this year has unfolded not as planned, at all. There is supposed to be a K-1 MAX Final 16 show in Europe in September, but the K-1 Official site, which usually lists upcoming shows on the right hand column has no sign of it anymore. The next show listed is the Koshien tournament, which there has been little actual news of to date.
As with most Japanese MMA stories it’s difficult to tell what to believe here (in other words, don’t take the following as gospel), but the sentiment out of Japan seems to be that the PUJI Capital deal may be the only thing that can save FEG/K-1/DREAM at this point, or as NOB put it, if PUJI doesn’t come through with the cash, it’s “the end.” Moreover, it takes time to raise the kind of funds PUJI pledged to produce, and people are beginning to question how long FEG can hang on without it.