Friday, February 23, 2007


By Loretta Hunt

It was a breezy, sunny day amidst the casino jungle that towered over a PRIDE ring erected smack dab in the middle of a major walkway of Caesars Palace’s Roman Plaza.

A crowd of a hundred or so diehard fans crowded the ring’s lip while the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson and their support teams hit pads and worked out the final kinks for Saturday’s PRIDE 33 “The Second Coming,” kicking off at 6 PM at the Thomas & Mack Center. The crowd ebbed and flowed in number throughout the afternoon as sightseers stopped to check out the commotion.

PRIDE Executive Jerry Millen riled the crowd on the microphone, piquing a little competitive spirit when he challenged the other big dog in town in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and particularly UFC president Dana White, a “put up or shut up” challenge to match PRIDE’s Middleweight Champion Silva with the American organization’s equivalent in UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell.

Millen’s words will have to (and probably will) travel around the world to Manchester, England, where White is mere hours away from addressing the UK public in an inaugural press conference for April 21’s UFC 70, which will take place at the 16,000-seat MEN Arena.

The Fight Network will be on hand to record White’s address, which will most likely include the official main event announcement between Croatian striker Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga.

Homegrown star Michael Bisping will also be in attendance, along with imported standout Quentin “Rampage” Jackson, among others. Tune in for notes from the presser in a few hours.

Other notes from today:

•Boxing-turned-MMA attraction Eric “Butterbean” Esch was among the masses of vacationers taking in the indulgences of Caesar’s restaurants. Esch said he had been approached to fight on this weekend’s PRIDE card, but the bout was kabashed when intended 390-pound opponent Wagner da Conceicao Martins, better known as “Zuluzinho,” could not secure a visa in time. The 350-pound Esch believes this match-up of “epic proportions” may come to fruition on the promotion’s next U.S. card on April 28. PRIDE president Nobuyuki Sakakibara is expected to make this event official this weekend.

•Light heavyweight James Lee was officially added today to this weekend’s card as a last-minute replacement for an injured Kazuhiro Nakamura. KOTC veteran Lee faces experienced Minnesota wrestler Travis Wiuff.

Here are Saturday’s nine bouts in reverse order:

PRIDE 33 “The Second Coming”
Feb. 24 – 6 PM
Thomas & Mack Center
Las Vegas, Nevada

PRIDE Middleweight Championship (Under 205 lbs)
Wanderlei Silva vs. Dan Henderson

Takanori Gomi vs. Nick Diaz
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Alistair Overeem
Sergei Kharitonov vs. Mike Russow
Hayato "Mach" Sakurai vs. Mac Danzig
Antonio Rogerio Noguiera vs. Theirry Sokoudjou
James Lee vs. Travis Wiuff
Kazuo Misaki vs. Frank Trigg
Joachim Hansen vs. Jason Ireland

No comments: