by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
“America… Pride has arrived.” These are the words of Pride FC president Nobuyuki Sakikabara as he addressed the throng of fans outside of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. The impact of these words can be felt as much for the fact that they were spoken in English as for their actual content.
It is a very rare occasion that Sakikabara addresses the public in English, for him to do so now emphasizes how much import that Pride puts on their emergence into the American market.
Having run their first event in 1997, Pride has built up a worldwide following and has a solid reputation for presenting many of the top foreign (to both America and Japan) fighters in the world. From Wanderlei Silva and Antonio Nogueira from Brazil to Fedor Emelianenko from Russia to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic from Croatia to many, many more, most of the world’s top talent in mixed martial arts has graced the Pride ring.
For years Pride has stated that they were bringing this top talent to America, but never followed through. With some struggles in Japan, having lost an important television contract, the American market has finally become a reality for Pride.
Tonight, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, Pride will bring their full spectacular presentation with them in their attempts to make an impact in the United States. “Be on time,” said Sakikabara, “so you will leave with goose bumps.”
And the goose bumps really have already started for many American fans. The week leading up to tonight’s event was marked with public training sessions, a well-presented weigh-in, and public press conference all held at the outdoor Roman Plaza at Caesar’s Palace.
The fans seemed to take it all in as they surrounded the presentation area, cheered in awe whenever Fedor Emelianenko was present, and surrounded the fighters wherever they went, seeking a glimpse, word, or autograph from their favorites. Pride really has done an admirable job presenting their show as an event rather than just another mixed martial arts contest.
As Sakikabara stated, “Finally, our dream has come true.” And for many fans in America, nothing could ring more true. After many false starts entering America it appears that tonight will be The Real Deal for Pride and their fans.