by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
Dream Stage Entertainment, the parent company of PRIDE Fighting Championships, experienced a historic year in 2005. With so much success, many assumed the organization’s momentum would carry them into the New Year. PRIDE experienced adverse circumstances at the start of 2006 that included the cancellation of their television contract with Fuji TV and the departure of one of their biggest stars Kazushi Sakuraba to rival organization K-1. Despite the recent setbacks, PRIDE managed to produce two successful tournaments and continue preparations for their U.S. show.

PRIDE 32: The Real Deal marks the organization’s debut on American soil. PRIDE recently visited the states and embarked on a 3-day media tour to promote their October 21st show. On the final day of the tour, DSE made a surprise move and brought out Mike Tyson to address the crowd. It appeared that PRIDE and the former heavyweight boxing champion had formed a partnership.

“We have formed an alliance with Mike Tyson and we are planning projects replete with MMA appeal,” stated DSE president Nobuyuki Sakakibara. “He’s not merely a guest, but a partner who will help us create an MMA revolution.”

Details of the partnership were not disclosed at the time and speculation of Tyson’s role in the organization began to run rampant.

Whether you love him or hate him, Mike Tyson captures people’s attention. In a period of uncertainty, “Iron” Mike may serve as an unlikely savior for the Japanese organization.

Despite the notoriety Tyson gained from his professional boxing antics, the former champion remains as a popular figure, especially in Japan. DSE has plans to branch out around the world and Tyson’s appeal may play an important part in their strategy.

Recently, a Japanese newspaper reported that DSE intends to have Mike Tyson participating in a boxing match on New Year’s Eve, ending much speculation. Tyson is expected to compete against a PRIDE fighter in the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Due to Tyson’s prior felonies, he is not permitted to compete in Japan. Macau is known for its gambling industry and may prove to be a profitable venture for DSE. An opponent for Tyson has yet to be announced but rumored possibilities include Mark Hunt and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.

In addition to world-wide expansion and exposure, utilizing Tyson’s name recognition could play an important part in PRIDE regaining a Japanese television deal. DSE intends on airing Tyson’s boxing match live inside the Saitama Super Arena on New Year’s Eve. It has been reported that Nippon TV and TV-Asahi might be interested in airing the event.

Relying on Mike Tyson’s name may be a big risk for DSE. Although the former champ announced his official retirement back in 2005, it has been reported that Mike is still under an exclusive contract with Showtime. ESPN boxing writer Dan Rafael recently stated in an article that Tyson still owes his previous employer, Showtime, at least one more fight. The contract stipulates that Tyson is forbidden from participating in any unarmed combat, regardless if it’s an exhibition. The contractual restriction may threaten Tyson’s proposed fight in Macau on New Year’s Eve and his world tour of exhibition fights.

It remains to be seen if PRIDE’s utilization of Mike Tyson will bring their strategy to full fruition. His contractual situation will prove to be the biggest hurdle and could potentially hurt DSE’s desired world-wide expansion and hopes of securing another television deal.

Assuming Showtime allows Tyson to fight, a successful showing in Macau could potentially expand the organization’s opportunities into other parts of China and the rest of the world. Securing another television deal seems to be one of the most essential objectives to attain if PRIDE wants to re-establish themselves in Japan. Without Tyson as a main attraction, interest from potential broadcasting companies may diminish.

Will Tyson be worth the gamble? Will Tyson turn out to be their ‘ace in the hole’? DSE has begun to lay their cards on the table.