Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Amidst politics, PRIDE lay plans for Saitama return

By Jordan Breen

Even your most casual fans at this juncture are aware of the swirling politics embroiling PRIDE and Dream Stage Entertainment. Between the dissent between DSE and PRIDE USA president-turned-agitator Ed Fishman, stories of mounting debts to employees, and the seemingly ever-escalating talks of selling PRIDE's assets, DSE is clearly caught between a rock and a hard place, with Scylla and Charybdis nearby. Nonetheless, plans are beginning to take shape for some proposed PRIDE action in the coming months.

With the previously scheduled Las Vegas date on April 28 for PRIDE 35 now officially nixed due to the growing tensions with USA backer Ed Fishman, some planning has already begun for PRIDE's next scheduled event at the Saitama Super Arena on April 8. The Saitama card will reportedly feature Japanese heavyweight Kazuyuki Fujita in the main event, against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.

The 36-year-old Fujita was scheduled to compete on PRIDE's Feb. 24 Las Vegas card, however Dream Stage Entertainment missed the deadline to submit his medical paperwork to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, effectively knocking him off of the bill.

DSE has also started to construct its May Saitama Super Arena card, which is scheduled to be the beginning of this year's proposed Lightweight Grand Prix. While they have yet to announce a body of fighters for the tournament, they have already reportedly tabbed Turkish-born, English-based fighter Sami Berik to be an opening round opponent for one of the division's Japanese stars.

It was originally thought that Berik would provide a softer touch for the PRIDE champion, who is coming off of his wild loss to Nick Diaz in Las Vegas. However, Berik has since stated that he instead expects to sign to officially face Hayato Sakurai later this week.

Also, after defeating Brazilian Gustavo PC at Pancrase's Feb. 28 stop on their 2007 RISING TOUR, Satoru Kitaoka confirmed suspicions that it was his goal to compete in this year's PRIDE Lightweight Grand Prix. While nothing is official in regards to Kitaoka, he may be a likely addition to the tournament roster, being both a skilled Japanese competitor, as well as a close friend and frequent training partner of Shinya Aoki, who will also likely compete in the Grand Prix.

No comments: