You’ve probably heard the rumors about a past his prime Mike Tyson being in talks to fight for PRIDE at one point or another. Turns out those rumors were true according to the “Pride: Secret Files” that were recently released. As the story goes, PRIDE planned to use Tyson as a part of a “World Tour” that included boxing matches against PRIDE stars Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Fedor Emelianenko. The US was one of the stops on this tour where PRIDE hoped to use Tyson to reach a segment of the US market that the UFC couldn’t. Here’s an excerpt from MMA-Japan (via MiddleEasy).
The first meeting with Sakakibara and Mike Tyson took place in April of 2006. The location was China. Mike Tyson, during his imprisonment, had become deeply inspired by revolutionary Mao Zedong. He was in China getting a tattoo of the notorious former leader of China. Sakakibara’s killing words were “creating a world tour.”
Tyson was a huge MMA fan from the very beginning. He had even worn a Vitor Belfort t-shirt at a meeting with reporters. One drawback, as we have seen most recently, an accomplished boxer could not go into the PRIDE ring solely with one skill, for the competition pool was very deep at this time. Two other major draw backs were the fact he had his license suspended by the NSAC and Japan frowned upon allowing convicted felons to fight in their country.
This is where the idea of a “world tour” came into Sakakibara’s mind. His matches would be boxing matches, first with Mirko Crocop, and eventually with Fedor Emelianenko, two strikers that had a chance at boxing with Tyson in the PRIDE ring. The plans were for these fights to be held in Russia, China, and other venues in Europe.
A fight in Japan and the United States were planned for the future, pending the results of the legal hurdles involved in getting him licensed.
Using Tyson in this fashion, PRIDE would be grabbing a share of the market that the UFC was unable to attain.
Apparently, Tyson was all about it when the deal was made, but like he had done with other business dealings, he changed his mind after the fact.
In terms of freak show matches, Tyson vs. Cro Cop and Tyson vs. Fedor boxing matches would have been epic, but like most things with PRIDE towards the end, it just didn’t work out. Crazy story though.