One of the worst-kept secrets this year in the mixed martial arts world has been the return of former Pride FC boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara to the Japanese fight scene.
It had long been rumored, and then recently confirmed by Bellator during its Dynamite event in San Jose, Calif. Bellator, on Sept. 19, revealed plans to partner with Sakakibara for his huge New Year’s Eve event, which would also feature the return of Fedor Emelianenko and air on Spike TV in the United States.
On Saturday, Sakakibara made an in-ring appearance at the King of Kings tournament in Moldova to confirm his return and to announce that King of Kings president Donatas Simanaitis would be joining him in Tokyo for the momentous occasion.
From 1997 to 2007, Pride FC was the main force in mixed martial arts in Japan. Unfortunately, after the company was sold to Zuffa eight years ago, the venerable promotion was shuttered.
Pride still holds the record for an MMA event with the largest attendance with the 2002 Pride/K1 Shockwave/Dynamite event, which drew over 91,000 people to the Tokyo National Soccer Stadium.
Sakakibara has yet to reveal his full plans and partnerships for New Year’s Eve, but he definitely left UFC fans out in the cold by stealing away Fedor, while Japanese fans may be harkening back to the days of yore.