Saturday, April 7, 2007


By Aaron Crecy

Cameroon Native Out To Prove Lightning Does Strikes Twice With Arona Showdown at PRIDE 34

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou was merely an afterthought on the PRIDE 33 card in Las Vegas. The Team Quest fighter entered his fight with the highly regarded and vastly experienced Antonio Rogerio Nogueira knowing full well he was brought in to serve as a stepping stone. With just three professional fights on his record—the last a knockout loss in an October 2006 World Extreme Cagefighting event—“the African Assassin” was a complete unknown to most mixed martial arts fans.

Despite the recent loss, Sokoudjou’s mixed martial arts mentor, Dan Henderson, had lobbied former Dream Stage Entertainment chief Nobuyuki Sakakibara to add his pupil to the PRIDE 33 card. Based almost exclusively on Henderson’s recommendation—and an impromptu look at the shirtless Sokoudjou’s well-muscled physique and flowing dreadlocks in DSE’s Los Angeles office—Sakakibara acquiesced.

Though initially slated to face Evangelist “Cyborg” Santos, Sokoudjou soon received a call from DSE inquiring if he would be willing to take on Nogueira. Despite the Brazilian Top Team stalwart’s daunting credentials—he owns victories over Henderson, Kazushi Sakuraba, Alistair Overeem and Kazuhiro Nakamura, and dropped a hotly contested decision to Mauricio “Shogun" Rua—Sokoudjou embraced the opportunity.

“I saw the fight with Nogueira as a chance to make a name for myself,” he said. “I actually felt as though I had an advantage entering the fight, because I was an unknown entity to him. Meanwhile, I had plenty of tape to study, and my coach, Dan Henderson, had been in the ring with him. It gave me a lot of confidence that Dan believed I would win the fight. Even though I knew I was an underdog, I never felt like one.”

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