(1:5 mark) “Fedor Emelianenko, my favorite of all time,” Tyson told HDNet’s Inside MMA. “He’s always the underdog, he’s always the smallest guy and he always comes out victorious. He just stayed around too long in the age of high performance [-enhancing] drugs, bigger athletes. I’ve just never seen an athlete like him, fighting, as far as a fighting athlete, that beat the odds so many times.
“From a guy that just loves him from a human perspective, I don’t want to see him get hurt anymore. He didn’t get hurt, but those guys could have hurt him – the big guy that was hitting him, Bigfoot. I don’t like to see that. A guy that’s been in there so long, and he’s not the same as he used to be and you see him getting beat up, that’s a bad feeling.”
There were actually place for Tyson and Fedor to box, in a Pride promotion.
The first meeting with Sakakibara and Mike Tyson took place in April of 2006. The location was China. Mike Tyson, during his imprisonment, had become deeply inspired by revolutionary Mao Zedong. He was in China getting a tattoo of the notorious former leader of China. Sakakibara’s killing words were “creating a world tour.”
Tyson was a huge MMA fan from the very beginning. He had even worn a Vitor Belfort t-shirt at a meeting with reporters. One drawback, as we have seen most recently, an accomplished boxer could not go into the PRIDE ring solely with one skill, for the competition pool was very deep at this time. Two other major draw backs were the fact he had his license suspended by the NSAC and Japan frowned upon allowing convicted felons to fight in their country.
This is where the idea of a “world tour” came into Sakakibara’s mind. His matches would be boxing matches, first with Mirko Crocop, and eventually with Fedor Emelianenko, two strikers that had a chance at boxing with Tyson in the PRIDE ring. The plans were for these fights to be held in Russia, China, and other venues in Europe.
A fight in Japan and the United States were planned for the future, pending the results of the legal hurdles involved in getting him licensed.
Using Tyson in this fashion, PRIDE would be grabbing a share of the market that the UFC was unable to attain.
The primary focus was moving these cards into China and breaking ground in an untapped market such as China. The huge population, the scale of the business, it would be unfathomable for them not to become an instant success. Also, China had land related to Tyson – in Sakakibara’s eyes, this would be a huge success.
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