The UFC is officially returning to Japan for the first time in over 10 years.
UFC President Dana White and Zuffa LLC Asia Executive Vice President and Managing Director Mark Fischerannounced Tuesday
that the organization will hold an event at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on Feb. 26, 2012.
"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," said UFC President Dana White via video message. "Japan has played a huge roll in getting the sport to where it is today. UFC stars such as [Quinton] "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."
The UFC didn't announce any fights for the card, but it is expected to showcase many Japanese fighters, much like UFC Rio did with Brazilian fighters. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who is a big star in Japan due to his run in PRIDE FC, has already begun campaigning for a spot on the show.
The Saitama Super Arena, which has hosted major MMA events in the past, will be configured to seat approximately 20,000 fans.
This will mark the first Japanese event for the UFC since Zuffa purchased the company in 2001, and according to Fischer, who worked in the NBA's Asian division for 12 years, next year's event will mark the beginning of a new era which will see at least one UFC event in Asia a year.
"While UFC Japan in 2012 will be the first event for Zuffa in Asia, it certainly won't be the last," Fischer said. "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,"
The first UFC event in Japan was "Ultimate Japan," which took place on Dec. 21, 1997. The organization then returned in November 1999 for UFC 23 and in April 2000 for UFC 25. The final UFC in Japan was UFC 29, which took place in December 2000.