PRIDE FIGHTING IS HERE TO STAY
A press conference was held on October 22nd at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, just one day after PRIDE's first American event, THE REAL DEAL. Present at the conference were Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara, PRIDE Executive Director Nobuhiko Takada, THE REAL DEAL fighters and fighters that watched the event from ringside.
"Please excuse me, I'm a little drunk," PRIDE Executive Director Nobuhiko Takada said, obviously enjoying the successful completion of PRIDE's first American event and drawing laughs from the crowd. "Yesterday's event was so incredible that I was drinking until morning. (laughing)" According to Takada, he did his best to watch the event calmly from a neutral position but he was moved by the intensity of the Las Vegas fans and the dramatic post-fight hug between Coleman and his children.
"I'm happy that we were able to achieve this level of success in our first American event. The UFC has been operating in America for 13 years and I'm sure they are feeling the heat now," Takada said, expressing his awareness of PRIDE's biggest rival in their quest to conquer America. He continued, speaking strongly, "From Sakakibara down, everyone (at DSE) will come together to fight in this battle."
Despite Takada's confidence, they were still nervous before the event. Although THE REAL DEAL was officially confirmed and tickets went on sale in August, they had received information that another mixed martial arts event held in Los Angeles in this previous month attracted only about 2,300 fans. "They had Quinton "Rampage" Jackson working their main event and other famous fighters on the card, too. Local businesses also conducted marketing for the event. Despite all that, they still didn't attract many fans. To be honest, it made me very nervous," Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara explained. With an expression that revealed his relief at attracting 11,727 fans to the previous day's PRIDE event, he continued, "I think this was a very good start. This wasn't a one-time event, though. We are going to continuously hold events in America."
Mike Tyson wasn't present at THE REAL DEAL, although he had been scheduled to be there. Sakakibara explained that he wants to begin a collaboration between Tyson and PRIDE beginning with the December 31st New Year's Eve event, "I'm going to remain in America for a little while longer and talk with Tyson's manager." Sakakibara announced that Tyson's first appearance in PRIDE, likely in this year's New Year's Eve event, would be officially finalized in about two weeks. "We want to create an event on a gigantic scale, like having two venues at the same time, one in China and one at the Saitama Super Arena" He continued, "Tyson wasn't happy about his conditioning (at the recent exhibition match) and he may have felt some anxiety about whether he can fight on New Year's Eve. However, I think he understands that New Year's Eve is New Year's Eve and if he's going to be ready to fight, I definitely want him to participate. If he does end up fighting (on New Year's Eve), I want to make him into a fighter representative of PRIDE."
Regarding participation by Hidehiko Yoshida and Kazuyuki Fujita in the New Year's Eve event, Sakakibara explained, "In Yoshida's case, I want to take a long-term view, rather than just one fight, in preparation for next year. I think Fujita will also make his comeback on New Year's Eve, too." He continued, "I would also like for either Yoshida or Fujita to fight on the Las Vegas card next February."
The fighters at the conference also happily spoke of the America event's success. Josh Barnett went out drinking with Takada after the event but he said that he was glad that he didn't stay out long enough to get a hangover. "Yesterday was really a day of celebration for me, my family and my friends. The most amazing thing was the way the fighters and the staff came together. The fighters are in a tough position, because they have to fight but we will work together to continue creating the greatest shows for the fans." Hidehiko Yoshida, sitting between Josh and an obviously drunk Takada, forced a smile, "I think I'm going to be sick. I want to leave as soon as possible." Surrounded by the smell of alcohol, he continued, "I'm very happy that the American event was a success and if I have the opportunity, I would like to fight in America. If I am allowed to fight in the New Year's Eve event, I will give a good fight, no matter who my opponent may be."
"If I am able to fight on New Year's Eve, I will do everything I can to give a good fight," PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko commented in his usual, relaxed manner. "My conditioning is extremely good. Before I was hurt, I was fighting all the time and I didn't have any time to rest. Once I was injured, though, I was able to take some time off and train. I improved technically and I feel that I'm better now than I was before. I'm going to continue high-altitude training in Russia and I want to become a perfect fighter combining training, grappling and defense. Everything." Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, who won his 2nd consecutive match since his arm injury, is eager for a chance to fight on New Year's Eve, "I think yesterday's event was a very high-quality event, just like they put on in Japan. I'm happy that I won and I am grateful to Fujimar and Raphael, who have brought me this far, and to my friends at Chute Boxe. After I return to Brazil and relax a little, I will begin training for New Year's Eve."
And finally, "Mr. PRIDE" Wanderlei Silva commented, "I think yesterday was an incredible show. There were a lot of fans at the event that told me they had never seen anything like this event before. I want to congratulate everyone. I hope that I can give the American fans a great fight in the next Las Vegas event." Silva continued, "I am very willing to fight on New Year's Eve. I want to fight. I lost my fight with Mirko, so as a fighter, it's very important to win after something like that. I don't care who my opponent is, but I believe he will be a top-level fighter. I will be well prepared and give the fans a great fight."
"Finally, I would like to say thank you to the fans, and the Japanese fans in particular. I spoke with some of the fans that traveled all the way from Japan (to Las Vegas) and they all told me that they were very happy that PRIDE was able to put on an event in America. I'm looking forward to fighting on New Year's Eve and I believe it will be an event in which we show the fans our best fights, as always," Silva said, giving thanks to the fans and his supporters.
On November 5th, PRIDE will host a BUSHIDO event including the Welterweight Grand Prix Final Round and Takanori Gomi's Lightweight Championship title defense. Following this BUSHIDO will be a star-studded New Year's Eve event, including Mike Tyson. As if these two events weren't enough, PRIDE will continue to gain speed when it puts on its second event in America in February 2007!