Sakakibara on PRIDE: We Are Here to Stay
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 11 — Standing at the dais during Thursday’s press
conference to officially introduce PRIDE’s Feb. 24 main event
between Wanderlei Silva
(Pictures) and Dan Henderson (Pictures), PRIDE CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara
said it as clear as he could while using his improving English: “We
are here to stay.”
Those words seemed unnecessary last January when PRIDE, coming off
a successful New Year’s Eve card and 2005 campaign, appeared to be
in great position as one of the world’s leading fight
Yet after 2006 — the most trying 12 months in the organization’s
10-year history — consistent rumors circulate that PRIDE is on its
way out as a major MMA promoter, and Sakakibara has very nearly
doubled as a Gloria Gaynor impersonator.
With the explosion of mixed martial arts upon the American
marketplace, Sakakibara has alternated between defending his
company and strategizing an offensive game plan that would have
PRIDE penetrate the UFC-dominated U.S. scene.
“2007 is the year of change and challenge for PRIDE,” Sakakibara
told Sherdog.com. “We take the American market very seriously and
also we have champions like Fedor and Wanderlei, strong fighters —
they’re waiting for anyone to challenge them. We’re here to stay in
America and those champions are here to stay in PRIDE.”
Following Thursday’s presser, Sakakibara discussed the state of
PRIDE, rumors the Japanese organization was close to selling to the
UFC, and several other topics that touch on the health of the
Nobuyuki Sakakibara: We’ve been doing this in Japan for 10 years
and we’re very confident in our product. We’re bringing in the best
fighters in the world. The last time we tried to bring in the whole
package of PRIDE in Japan as it is; we didn’t change anything at
all into the U.S. market. So for the second show, we’re not going
to change anything. We’re going to do what we’ve done the last 10
Sakakibara: The last show in October we didn’t do that for fun. We
took it very seriously. And in 2007 we’ll try to push harder and
farther into this market. No matter what is going to happen to us
in the future we’re just trying to do our best to make it happen in
the U.S. market.
Sakakibara: Coming to the U.S. market you can never be strong
enough. We always welcome any offer for help or teaming up with
sponsors. We are ready to come here. And again, any offer is
welcome to us.
Sakakibara: It’s just a rumor. I haven’t had any close conversation
with (UFC president) Dana White so far. But since the Fertitta
brothers bought the UFC we’ve had a very close relationship and we
have had friendly conversation. We’re just trying to come up with
the idea on how we can make this sport grow. That’s our main
concern. I think that is where the rumors are coming from. We’re
constantly having a conversation with the UFC.
Sakakibara: We’re trying to make it happen at the Staples Center. I
already mentioned that Dodgers Stadium would be our final goal.
We’re not only promoting the fights. We’re creating the
entertainment, the event itself. We’ve done the National Stadium in
Japan. The biggest baseball stadium in Tokyo. So we’re trying to
leave a footstep in America that we have achieved something that
the people can remember for a long time. That’s what we’re trying
to achieve in this country.
Sakakibara: Yes. Middle of May is the first round.
Sakakibara: Maybe not this year, the super heavyweight grand prix.
But we’re making offers to all the big fighters all over the world
so maybe next year we can make it happen.
Sakakibara: We try to keep a very friendly relationship with WWE.
There is a lot to learn from them in many aspects of the
entertainment business. Vince McMahon is one of my role models as a
businessman. He is my hero as a businessman.
Sakakibara: Match-ups, not yet. Today I will announce Takanori Gomi (Pictures) will take part in the next
Sakakibara: No, non-title fight. But he will make his U.S.
Sakakibara: We’re getting many offers from many companies. But in
the near future we’re going to surprise people. We’re going to
announce some surprises.
Sakakibara: It’s very possible that many fighters follow Mirko’s
footsteps. PRIDE’s plan is to decide the toughest fighter in the
world. It’s a very tough situation as a working place for a
fighter, so we’re expecting more fighters to follow.
Sakakibara: The theme in PRIDE is, again, to decide the strongest
man on the planet. So maybe more strong fighters will come into
PRIDE and those who can’t survive in PRIDE, they’ll leave. That’s
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