Q & A: NOBUYUKI SAKAKIBARA /THE REAL DEAL PRESS CONFERENCE
09/23/2006

A press conference was held at the Dream Stage Entertainment office in Aoyama, Tokyo on September 19th to announce additional cards for PRIDE 31 THE REAL DEAL, to be held at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 21st. This event will also be broadcast live via internet pay-per-view.



Two matches were announced today. Josh Barnett versus Pawel Nastula and Mark Hunt versus Eric "Butterbean" Esch. Added to the previously announced Fedor Emelianenko versus Mark Coleman and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua versus Kevin Randleman matches, four matches have now been confirmed. It was also made clear that a total of nine matches will be held as a result of directions from the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Josh Barnett was previously suspended by the Athletic Commission due to doping allegations that he has denied. According to Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara, Barnett will be free to compete in this event, "It won't be a problem because enough time has passed (since the suspension). He didn't have any serious injuries from the Grand Prix and he has said that he will be in his best condition by October 21st. Nastula is not an easy opponent and I expect that he will be able to give Josh a hard fight."
Sakakibara also said that he plans to have three or four Japanese fighters, including Kazuyuki Fujita and Kazuhiro Nakamura, depending on his physical condition. He mentioned Phil Baroni and Vitor Belfort as possible competitors and said that additional cards would be announced this week, with the full card being announced this month.
The fight card currently revolves around the Heavyweight Division with Shogun and Randleman the only Middleweight fight. However, Lightweight and Welterweight cards are also planned and the event will be made up of nine fights from all of the weight classes.
"We aren't just matching up American versus foreigners. There will be matches between American fighters, too. There are also a lot of core American fans that want to see top athletes other than Americans, so I want to bring as many foreigners as I can," Sakakibara explained.
The rules for this particular event will differ from PRIDE Official Rules due to the requirement to abide by rules already established by the Athletic Commission. Unlike the ten and five minute rounds used in Japan, each fight will consist of three rounds, five minutes in length each. "We will continue holding discussions and working to receive permission but for now, it will be three five-minute rounds," Sakakibara said. Kicks on the ground, including those to a fighter in the four-points position, will be forbidden. Although elbow strikes are allowed in Nevada, they will not be allowed in this event. Sakakibara explained, "There would be a lot of cuts (if we allow elbows) and while, technically speaking, it may be a technique, it only serves to invite injury. We're still negotiating this point but our intention is to forbid elbow strikes."
"We have prepared something on a bigger scale than the Japanese number series, something that will amaze the American fans." Sakakibara said proudly about the production. "We've prepared a production fitting even for the Tokyo Dome. In addition to top-level fights, we are going to give the fans a production worthy of this event. The production will be one that will bring the American fans to tears as Coleman takes on Fedor amid a flood of USA' chants. In previous events in America, they have just booed the (foreign) fighters. We want to use the pre-fight videos to explain the must-see points of PRIDE and create the world's greatest event that will allow the fans to empathize (with the foreign fighters too)."
Sakakibara continued, "Additionally, we are going to broadcast the pay-per-view over the internet starting October 21st." From now on, anyone that can log on to the internet will be able to watch live PRIDE fights in real time, no matter where they are in the world. WWE and the UFC have already begun these internet broadcasts, and PRIDE will become the first Japanese organization to do so. Dream Stage Entertainment contracted with an American company over the summer to distribute live internet broadcasts. However, the worldwide internet broadcasts will not be limited to only this American event. In the future, all PRIDE events will be broadcast over the internet. However, the internet broadcast will not be available to customers residing in countries that use satellite-broadcasted pay-per-views, such as Japan, Korea, Croatia and Brazil.
"I don't know exactly how many people will be watching this event but I've heard that the mixed martial arts event Rumble On The Rock had 100,000 viewers. So, I believe that we will have at least 300,000 viewers, at a minimum," Sakakibara said of the internet broadcast. The price of the internet broadcast will be set between US$30 and US$35, in line with American PPV prices and a reasonable price for the rest of the world.
A hot current topic is Mike Tyson's possible participation. However, Sakakibara made it official that Tyson would not compete in this event. "(Tyson) has lost his license and can't fight in State of Nevada, even under boxing rules. I want him to come to this event for promotional purposes."
Sakakibara also explained that Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic might not be able to compete. "Apparently, the instep of his left leg has swollen since he returned to Croatia. Mirko himself wants to fight but we will wait for his reply after he has undergone a doctor's examination. Even so, I'm not sure it would be the best idea to put Mirko in the first event in America. We will make the final decision after speaking directly with Mirko but I'm sure he will still come to the event, even if he is not fighting." Sakakibara continued, explaining that Hidehiko Yoshida won't compete either, "He's not going to compete in October. I want him to concentrate on the New Year's Eve event."
"We expect about 300 Japanese people to come to the event on our organized tour but there will also be people that buy tickets and go to the event individually, so I expect more than 300 Japanese fans to attend. We will hold four to five events in America next year but this is the only time we will ever have our "first event" there, so I definitely want the fans to come and watch it," Sakakibara said, sending an invitation to the fans.
According to Sakakibara, PRIDE billboards are currently on display in large cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. "You'll understand how serious we are when you see those billboards. " Finally, PRIDE begins its worldwide expansion in earnest and the Japan-born mixed martial arts event that the American fans have long awaited is finally coming to America.
Regarding Wanderlei Silva's participation in the November UFC, Sakakibara reemphasized PRIDE's willingness to fight, "We are ready. We will be happy to do it if the UFC is willing. We've told them that if Silva is unacceptable because he lost in the Grand Prix, then Mirko would be fine, too. Mirko has said that he will fight. Dana White apparently said that PRIDE is running away (from the UFC) but we aren't running anywhere. We are ready to fight. PRIDE is always ready to fight."