“It was a unique experience,” Hardt told MMAWeekly.com on Twitter.
That experience made fans out of guys like UFC 144‘s Ryan Bader. The Arizona State wrestler used to watch other wrestlers like Dan Henderson and Mark Coleman compete in Pride. This brought a feeling of excitement like few other things.
Come Feb. 26, the roles will reverse and Bader will be the one standing at the center of Saitama Super Arena for others to embrace in excitement.
As much as he’s seen the atmosphere on television, Bader doesn’t know what to expect once he’s actually in the act of fighting Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in front of the fans in Japan. There will likely be a hush he’s not used to, which is what the Japanese crowd is known for during fights.
Perhaps Bader will actually get a chance to listen to his coaches more clearly. He told MMAWeeky Radio, “It’ll be kind of nice,” when referencing being able to hear the instructions from his corner.
Hardcore fans who followed Pride during its competitive years get nostalgic thinking of what was. It’s easy to get caught up in the awe of what the promotion had to offer from not only a talent aspect, but also the presentation. Memorable ring entrances, huge introductions to open up the show, and a sea of confetti falling from the rafters to close it out; these are all things that made Pride what it was.
He admits it would be great to experience these things as a fighter, but Bader’s first priority is to handle business inside the Octagon. Everything else is secondary.
“That would be very cool just to jump right into the old culture of what (they) used to have over there,” he said. “But either way, we’re in our own different mindsets when we’re fighting. It’ll be cool to watch after you’re done fighting, but you don’t even really care or even acknowledge anything when you’re going out there. You’re just thinking about doing your job.”
If anything sticks out to Bader about fighting on this particular card, it’s the fact that it takes place in a different country. He’s no stranger to fighting internationally. Cards in Australia and Mexico are locations taking up space on the former TUF winner’s luggage.
Travels such as these aren’t easily forgotten in Bader’s mind.
“I got to fight in Australia and that was one of my highlights of my career,” he said. “Not just because of the fight, but because of the whole experience of going down there.
“When you have an opportunity to travel around the world and perform in front of different countries and cultures and see different parts of the world – I just really like doing that.”
And now, Bader gets to put another sticker on his suitcase. This time it comes from Japan.