Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Live From the PRIDE Press Conference

By Stephen Martinez

Sherdog.com's Stephen Martinez reports live from Tokyo, Japan where it is expected that Dream Stage Entertainment will announce at a press conference that it has ceded control of the PRIDE Fighting Championships to UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Feritta.

5:27 Tokyo Time: Little movement on stage, which is a miniature version of the production PRIDE was famous for during shows at Saitama Super Arena. More than 1,000 fans are present at the Roppongi Hills Arena, along with a strong contingent of Japanese and International press. There are two big screens featuring PRIDE bouts.

5:44: PRIDE highlights continue to play on the giant televisions. The attitude in the area feels more like PRIDE is saying "thanks for everything" rather than promotion. Fedor Emelianenko's manager, Vadim Finkelstein is here.

5:55: Japanese fighters have begun to arrive. Recent fan favorite Shinya Aoki, whose gogoplata victory over Joachim Hansen made the world know it was possible, as well as Ryo Chonan, and leglock master Masakazu Imanari have started to file in.

6:02: Virtually all of the Japanese fighters who have participated in PRIDE throughout the organization's decade-long history appear to be here.

6:07: Ultimate Fighting Championship matchmaker Joe Silva has shown his face. He is the first UFC representative to appear at the press conference. This is the first indication that the rumor Sherdog.com first reported on March 19 is indeed true: DSE and Zuffa have agreed to a deal of some sort that would have the companies working together.

6:24: PRIDE CEO Noboyuki Sakakibara is addressing the media. It's heartbreaking. He talks about PRIDE's history and his goals during his tenure of the organization's boss after Naoto Morishita committed suicide on Dec. 31, 2002.

Sakakibara announced his resignation and has just introduced UFC co-owner and Station Casino magnate Lorenzo Fertitta. There is discussion of a mixed marital commission, which Fertitta will act as president. PRIDE will be run separately but under the umbrella of Zuffa, which also controls the WEC.

Sakakibara becomes very sentimental and says he will step down following PRIDE 34 on April 8.

6:46: Current PRIDE president Nobuhiko Takada will remain with the new company. Takada has joined the stage, and begins to address the audience. Pride will run separate from UFC but under Lorenzo Fertitta, said the main who fought Rickson Gracie in the main event of the debut PRIDE Oct. 11, 1997.

Fertitta has the microphone and said PRIDE will continue world-wide. He discusses his love for the style of MMA PRIDE promoted, and wants to make the sport of MMA like baseball or soccer. Fertitta discusses a mixed martial arts "Super Bowl" with UFC fighters like Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Diego Sanchez, B.J. Penn facing PRIDE stars such as Fedor Emelianenko, Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua, Dan Henderson, Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Takanori Gomi and Hayato Sakurai.

6:56: Last year's PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix winner Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic says he wanted to come back and fight Fedor again in a recorded.

UFC president Dana White has come on stage and says that all mixed martial arts organizations are a joke next to UFC or PRIDE. White receives a good reception from Japanese fans. He is now talking about potential dream match-ups becoming a reality:

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Randy Couture
Takanori Gomi vs. Georges St. Pierre
Dan Henderson vs. Anderson Silva
Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva

Also official PRIDE 34 matches have been revealed:

Jeff Monson vs. Kazuyuki Fujita
Ikuhisa Minowa vs. Don Frye
Wanderlei Silva vs. TBD

7:02: Jeff Monson and Kazuyuki Fujita have appeared on stage and are being billed as the first UFC vs. PRIDE encounter. Fujita promises to crush the UFC.

7:16: The press conference is over. No questions were fielded from the press.

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