When UFC President Dana White was recently in Japan he got the opportunity to sit down with MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba. White talked with Sakuraba about his illustrious career and what could have been had PRIDE FC promoted him correctly.
Via the UG:
“The guy was a national treasure,” says White. “And the promoters, it’s like they were trying to destroy him. It made no sense to me, ever.”
Sakuraba replied, as translated by UFC Director of International Business Development Japan, Ryo Ishibashi.
“The more I guess, impossible the fights got the more pissed off he became and the willingness to accept those fights grew stronger,” related the translator. “But, in the end, they asked him to fight Fedor, he said no to that.”
White replied, speaking for the entire UG.
“Good,” he said. “Good.”
White then asked if Saku was paid very well in Pride.
Saku said he was paid the same for each fight, regardless of the opponent or the weight class. If that seems fundamentally unjust, consider that Pride was controlled by the Yakuza.
When asked his favorite Saku fight, White reflected at some length, and settled on the Royce Gracie fight.
Then Saku asked White to set up a fight with Wanderlei Silva.
At 46-years-old, having lost his last four fights in a row, and having not fought since 2011, it’s highly unlikely the UFC would book Sakuraba on a card, even in Japan. However, White does mention wanting to have him come take part in a UFC Fan Expo. As a natural middleweight, Sakuraba fought a lot of bigger guys and endured a lot of punishment over the years. It’s probably best they don’t have him fight again, but to honor him by having him still be part of an expo would be a good way to pay respect to one of MMA’s most beloved pioneers.
Check out the interview below:
Watch Sakuraba’s legendary 90 minute fight with Royce Gracie from the Pride Openweight Gran Prix that took place in May 2000 below. Yes… 90 minutes!