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Mike Tyson Was Contracted to Fight Fedor and Cro Cop in PRIDE

I remember watching Mike Tyson calling out Bob Sapp (*Editor’s note: How the hell is Bob Sapp only 35?) after "The Beast" beat Kimo Leopoldo at K-1 World Grand Prix event in Las Vegas in 2003 and thinking, "Man, I wish Tyson would fight somebody good in MMA."

Well, it turns out that  in 2003 "Iron" Mike had a contract with PRIDE and was supposed to fight two of the Japanese promotion’s best heavyweights: Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Fedor Emelianenko.

The bouts never came to fruition for several different reasons, but if they had, Dana White likely wouldn’t have had any interest in bringing James Toney into the UFC to solve the, "Who would win between a boxer and a mixed martial artist?" question.

Imagine how differently each man’s career would have turned out if Tyson had knocked Emelianenko and Filipovic out in the 2004 PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix.

The translation of the story from  PRIDE: Secret Files courtesy of MMA-Japan.com is after the jump:

Up until now, PRIDE had held many of their plans below the surface of the water. Many plans disappeared before they were even announced, and even some disappeared after they were announced. A prime example of this was Mike Tyson fighting for PRIDE in the USA.

The mood was skeptical regarding Mike Tyson from the beginning. Before PRIDE had gotten in touch with Tyson, K-1 had also gotten a hold of him, and it is said that the prohibitive cost involved was what led to the massive tax evasion scandal that hit K-1. It wasn’t just about seeing Tyson fight, PRIDE had an entire plan as to the marketability of Mike Tyson in PRIDE. In regards to the plan, Mike Tyson was VERY interested as PRIDE was going to create a world tour of sorts for Tyson.

While they were transitioning to the United States, getting a hold of Mike Tyson was one of their primary objectives. The simple news of “Japan’s largest MMA event is coming to the United States” was not sufficient in the minds of DSE management. With that in mind, DSE management began to look at Tyson to be their superstar, being that he had a huge name value and his star in the boxing world was all but diminished.

At first, getting a hold of Tyson did not go very well. For someone as famous as Tyson, making contact with him created many hang ups. This included many suspicious characters trying to capitalize of Tyson’s name. DSE made an attempt to bypass these shady characters and go straight to the #1 man in charge of Tyson’s affairs, who the book does not name.

He could also be referred to as the “ticket window” in regards to the negotiations with Mike Tyson. Negotiations would not be easy. Tyson had multiple prior engagements and many prior business plans preceding what could have been a relationship with PRIDE. DSE was succeeding with negotiations with Tyson for two reasons, their strong brand name, and their planned breakthrough into the US market.

An executive, one day, claimed to have charmed his way into the presence of Mike Tyson, claiming to have began negotiations with him.

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.

The primary focus was moving these cards into China and breaking ground in an untapped market such as China. The huge population, the scale of the business, it would be unfathomable for them not to become an instant success. Also, China had land related to Tyson – in Sakakibara’s eyes, this would be a huge success.

The plan was to put on the first event of the world tour at the beginning of that year. The initial location for the event was going to be Macau, and would rival the New Years Eve event at the Saitama Super Arena.

As would be expected, from the people that made the Rickson vs. Takada fight, this all was a fairy tale. Mike Tyson was all for it as it was in his mind as a revolutionary type of event, similar to Mao’s and Che’s revolutions from the past. Sakakibara’s plan had gone beyond business – it was a dream like plan.

There is a problem here – there is a huge disparity between dreamlike and reckless. At the PRIDE presser in Las Vegas of that year, Mike Tyson showed up under the notion of being a PRIDE fighter that DSE was happy to have joined the organization. After that, the plan stopped. Tyson was nowhere to be found.

Questions were raised after the press conference and during the event, but DSE executives were reluctant to give an honest answer. DSE said no matter how hard they tried to get Tyson on board, Tyson rejected all offers.

As for Mike Tyson, these events became a common occurrence. From Bob Sapp calling out Mike Tyson at a K-1 event, when Tyson was on his way to the event from his hotel room, Tyson decided “I don’t want to go.”

One thing for certain, DSE did have an official contract with Mike Tyson. If there were a breach of this contract, Tyson would be monetary obliged to compensate DSE accordingly. As with many Tyson deals, that meant nothing.

One DSE employee stated that Tyson had incurred enormous debts from doing things such as this and that DSE was pretty much helpless in this regard. DSE’s position was that Tyson had already incurred millions in debt that he didn’t care about a measly few hundred thousand dollars.

The Tyson story, after all of this, became a fairy tale. Nothing was every brought of it again. 

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JaredB- December 15, 2010 at 4:29 am
Tyson would've put both of those guys on their backs looking up at the lights FAST with an uppercut, even overweight and out of his prime. That would not have been Toney vs. Couture. And anybody who thinks Tyson only fought tomato cans doesn't really know anything about Tyson's career. And we wouldn't have to hear all this nonsense about Fedor and his legendary run of beating up pro wrestlers, judokas, and guys out of their weight class.
Joedirt- December 14, 2010 at 5:39 pm
Mike Tyson was easily top ten.... in his prime. He wasn't "exposed" or figured out when he lost to Douglas or Holyfield or even Lewis, he simply wasn't the same fighter. Anyone that knows the history of Tyson knows that after D'amato died Tyson started falling apart. His training habits changed, his personal life changed... he couldn't keep it together. But standing up with Fedor or Crocop even after his prime would have been short nights for Fedor and Crocop.
liftedrg- December 14, 2010 at 5:12 pm
Mike Tyson couldn't travel outside the U.S. due to legal issues. He showed up to an event held in Irvine, California promoting the PRIDE FC fight in Vegas where he explained to everyone in attendance that he was a "sexual deviant" and that PRIDE FC had helped bail him out of multiple situations. PRIDE put lots of money into Mike hoping he would be the next icon for the promotion but Iron Mike was in not mentally, or legally, prepared for what DSE had planned for him.....
Elentius- December 14, 2010 at 1:06 pm
That was way too much reading. Sapp blows goats and Tyson would destroy him. Tyson would take his head off with 4 ouncers.
shitbag- December 14, 2010 at 12:59 pm
^^^^ His competition has always been derailed by his detractors, it wasn't anywhere near as bad as people make it out to be - he would have taken care of almost all of Wlad's opponents in one night! And most boxing pundits put him in the top 15 HWs of all time, I've seen two attempts at an objective rating rate him as #10 HW of all time.
Sudos KFC- December 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm
^if it was an mma bout the exact same thing would have happened to him as happened to every other pure boxer...he would get taken down and pounded out...esp by fedor and tbh he probably would have gotten chopped down by crocop as well but I will give him about a 10% chance of winning that one.

Mike Tyson wasnt/isnt even a top 10 hw BOXER of all time let alone be able to beat the top 2 mma hw's at the time. Kids these days forget how shitty the comp was in his day...
shitbag- December 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm
If this was actually done, as in being Boxing matches and NOT MMA, it would have been brutal, short and nasty.

Tyson would have fucked up Cro-Cop and Fedor in a major way, and altered their careers. It was even in a ring and not a cage so Tyson wouldn't have had to make any adjustments and could stalk and cut off the ring. He'd get inside on both of them and fuck them up and turn their lights off, no matter what either of them did they wouldn't have been able to prevent Tyson from getting inside and throwing uppercuts and hooks. Tyson's boxing defense was so underrated, neither Cro-Cop or Fedor would have had a chance in hell, even the just retired Tyson of that time.
Mike Russell- December 14, 2010 at 11:55 am
@Fedor Penn: hxxp://www.mixedmartialarts.com/mma.cfm?go=forum_framed.posts&forum=1&thread=1739176&page=1&pc=1 
Fedor Penn- December 14, 2010 at 11:19 am
Where can I purchase this book?
Fried Taco- December 14, 2010 at 11:18 am
Damn Wikileaks is at it again! Julian Assange, please leave our beloved Pride memories alone, will ya?
Dog Dicks Magoo- December 14, 2010 at 10:55 am
So who is going to rape who?
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