In this past Saturday’s ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC) event held in Singapore, DREAM standouts Tatsuya Kawajiri and Masakau Imanari fought in Southeast Asia for the first time in both their careers. Both made quick work of their opponent, with both victories coming by first round submission, Kawajiri by Triangle Choke and Imanari by his signature leglock.
Despite being veterans of major promotions like Dream and Strikeforce, both Japanese veterans received surprisingly muted responses as they entered the cage. This is a strange roundabout from the vocal crowd who nearly tore the roof down when local fighters Nicole Chua and Quek Kim Hock won their respective fights. Even lesser known names like Zorobel Moreira and Eddie Ng received louder cheers.
I don’t get it. Here we have two of the best fighters not under the Zuffa umbrella fighting courtesy of a deal with Dream, and yet the crowd doesn’t seem overly excited. It is especially disappointing for Tatusya Kawajiri, who has fought in front of crowds triple the size of the Singapore audience in Pride and Strikeforce and headlined title fights in Dream.
It is expected for local fighters to get louder cheers, and Eddie Ng, Zorobel Moreira and several others train out of Singapore so are considered local favourites as well. It could also be that Tatsuya Kawajiri’s grinding ground and pound style is not the most exciting and crowd pleasing. But their countrymen like Yuya Shirai and Yoshiyuki Nakanishi got louder cheers despite being less popular in Japan, and even Richie Whitson whose most notable for appearing on a reality television show got a louder pop.