Interview with PRIDE CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara

Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara spoke with reporters following the PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2006 press conference held at a Tokyo hotel on December 30th.




Pride Fighting Championships: Honestly, how do you feel about Mike Tyson's arrest?
Nobuyuki Sakakibara: It's a letdown. We are speaking with Tyson's management but since Tyson has admitted that he was in possession of cocaine, I think he's probably going to jail again. So, we will continue to speak with them about what his future holds, whether he can honor our contract with him and whether we should continue the contract at all. Of course, there is no forgiveness for what he has done.
Pride: Is there any chance that the contract will be voided?
Sakakibara: I spoke with our lawyer. We are in a position to cancel the contract, and we will keep that in mind as we think about the future. We were talking with the Macao government and the people at the Macao Dome about holding an event there and we wanted to do it an the earliest and most natural timing, even if it's not on New Year's Eve. We were thinking of brining Tyson to the Macao event. However, we don't have any intentions of provided a place to fight to a person that commits crimes, so we will make some kind of judgment regarding how we will be involved with Tyson in the future.
Pride: What was the status of discussions regarding the event in Macao?
Sakakibara: We wanted to hold an event and include a Tyson fight in the event. We're not going to cancel our plans just because Tyson won't be fighting. We hadn't decided on a fixed date yet but we were working towards an event in June or July.
Pride: Did you consider Tyson's participation as a key to getting back on broadcast TV?
Sakakibara: Just because Tyson fights would not mean that we would necessarily return to TV and I don't think he is that big of a factor. We thought that a Tyson fight might be exciting for SHOCKWAVE and we hoped to use Tyson's worldwide fame to let the world know about PRIDE.
Pride: There are rumors concerning Mirko fighting in the UFC.
Sakakibara: We will make an official announcement regarding Mirko tomorrow. Please wait until then.
Pride: With the loss of the broadcast, do you expect even more from the fighters?
Sakakibara: I think the fighters have really worked hard over this past year. As the promoter, we wanted to bring SHOCKWAVE back to TV and repay the fighters for all their hard work and the fans for their support. I feel very sorry that we were unable to do that. So, I have no complaints for the fighters.
PRIDE is not going away just because we're not on TV anymore, and PRIDE was not created for FUJI TV's benefit. Please don't misunderstand. Whether we are on TV or not is just a topic concerning Japan. We are looking at worldwide expansion. We are in Japan and since we've lost something that we previous had, people will pay attention to us because of that but we are broadcast live in Korea, and continue to broadcast on PPV. What we have to gain now is the American market. Honestly, the UFC has an advantage over PRIDE in America and we have to figure out how to overcome that. That issue is much more pressing for PRIDE than a return to broadcast TV. If we are going to continue to maintain PRIDE as the world's greatest event, we have to put more weight into capturing the American market.
Of course, the fighters want as many people as possible in Japan to watch their fights and PRIDE is still just as entertaining as it always was. This is a lasting problem that DSE was faced with, so if they don't want to bend, we will think of some other way to return to broadcast TV as quickly as possible.
Pride: How do you predict tomorrow's title match?
Sakakibara: Hunt appears to be in extremely good condition. Hunt was originally supposed to fight in October, so he's been training this entire time and he's motivated because he will fight Fedor. So, I think Hunt is prepared. I was worried about Fedor's foot injury but if he is really injured, I don't think he will give specifics (about the location). Fedor fought Coleman as a test drive for New Year's Eve. Fedor originally didn't mind fighting Mirko on New Year's Eve so we offered Mirko the fight, then we offered Josh the fight. Fedor has said that he doesn't know what's going to happen but I think Fedor definitely has the advantage.