For the contestants who take part, reality TV talent shows offer a chance to make dreams come true.

A promising newcomer can be plucked from obscurity and placed in the limelight, while the figure who you’ve been rooting for may stumble unexpectedly. The stakes are high, and the drama comes naturally.

The fighters who are taking part in the “Road to UFC: Japan” TV series are gearing up for their own reality show roller coaster ride this summer, and it will be leading them to an opportunity to fight at the highest level in their sport: as headliners at “UFC Fight Night Japan: Nelson vs Barnett.”

Although mixed martial arts (MMA), and particularly UFC, has been taking the world by storm, many Japanese MMA fighters find themselves in tough financial times. PRIDE, the Japanese fighting organization that used to draw audiences of nearly 100,000 fans—closed down some eight years earlier, and no strong league has risen to take its place. Even champion-level Japanese MMA fighters are forced to take on second jobs in order to support themselves as they manage to squeeze in the time to train for their next fight.

For “Road to UFC: Japan,” eight of Japan’s toughest featherweights (up to 66.3 kg) have been chosen by the UFC organization to train in Las Vegas, the home of UFC, all for a shot at a contract as a professional fighter with the world’s top MMA league—and the chance to put their skill, speed, and toughness on display at Saitama Super Arena on September 27.

Because each MMA fighter brings a different mix of martial arts disciplines—jiu-jitsu, kick boxing, boxing, wrestling, and kung fu, just to name a few—to the match, no battle is ever the same. And fighters are always training relentlessly in their gyms and against sparring partners to continue to improve strength, focus, skill, and power. In the lead-up to September’s Fight Night, you can see them putting their techniques and determination to the test each week, as they try to make it to a head-to-head battle at the Super Arena.

UFC fans will recognize the format of the show, as it is very similar to the long-running, and highly popular “The Ultimate Fighter,” which has launched the career of many a fighter back in the U.S. Once the Japanese fighters arrive in Las Vegas, they will begin training with their coaches—UFC heavyweights Roy Nelson and Josh Barnett, who will take charge of a team of four fighters each. Over the course of the season, audiences will see these hopefuls run through the gamut of emotions—from fighters being psyched up before a fight to their raw tears as they push themselves to the limit, training thousands of miles away from home. One fighter from each team will be chosen to fight under the bright lights in Saitama—but only time will tell which two they will be.


Tune in to “Road to UFC: Japan”

Channel: TV Tokyo (Kanto Local) | Every Monday 25:00–25:30
First Episode: Monday, July 6

Channel: BS Japan | Every Saturday 24:00–24:30
First Episode: Saturday, July 11

UFC Fight Night Japan: Nelson vs Barnett

Where: Saitama Super Arena

When: Sunday, September 27
Doors open at 8 am
Opening fight 8:30 am
Main event opening ceremony 9:00 am
Main event 11:00 am

Buy Your Tickets Now!

To purchase tickets to the event, go to, the exclusive English-language ticket portal for “UFC Fight Night Japan: Nelson vs Barnett.”


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