Perhaps that's why the bigwigs revealed a bombshell during the last stop of a recent 3-day media tour, with PRIDE president Nobuyuki Sakakibara calmly saying:
"We have formed an alliance with Mike Tyson and we are planning projects replete with MMA appeal. He's not merely a guest, but a partner who will help us create an MMA revolution." Tyson himself was at the press gathering, as if to give credence to a story which might at first seem too fantastic to be believed.
There were few details from either PRIDE or Tyson after the announcement. When asked point-blank if he plans to become an official PRIDE fighter, Tyson would only say, "I am happy that I can be a part of PRIDE, which is a great organization. I can't comment on my contract, because it's confidential."
Mike Tyson actually coming out of retirement to fight again is of course possible, but unlikely.
Tyson's an acknowledged MMA fan; he was the guest referee on a card in Manchester, England, on March 18th of this year, with the bout lasting only a minute. But when asked by ring announcer Bas Rutten, a former UFC heavyweight champion, whether he would fight again, Tyson gave a flat, 'no'.
"My fighting days are over, but I love and enjoy watching cagefighting, though," Tyson told Rutten.
A fine article by Kevin Iole for the Las Vegas Review-Journal adds:
"Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson has no plans to return as an active boxer, but will fight a series of up to 10 exhibition matches in the next several months, sources close to Tyson said Friday.
"Tyson, 40, will train for those bouts at the Aladdin. The source said a ring will be set up in the casino and Tyson will work out in a public area for an hour a day."
The Review-Journal continued:
"Tyson is expected to box an exhibition on a Pride Fighting Championship mixed martial arts card, though the date and site are not determined. Pride has a card scheduled for the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 21, though Tyson reportedly will not fight on that show.
"However, Tyson...isn't planning to join Pride."
Of course with no one talking in an official capacity, there's no way to verify Iole's sources. But there's no immediate reason to doubt the story, and it would seem to best fit the known facts.
All the same, forgive me if I'm wary of the possible outcome here, or for MMA sports in particular. One very pointed, but entertaining, editorial on this announcement comes from insidepulse.com. As that commentator noted:
"Apparently someone forgot to tell Sakakibara that "Iron" Mike Tyson is completely batshit motherfucking insane. [Tyson is] notoriously unpredictable...Pride is taking a huge gamble by bringing in Tyson in any capacity, but it could pay off big time in America for the Japanese organization.
"I'm sure we'll get some great soundbites, and Pride will get a ton of press in America, but in the end Tyson will flake and the whole thing will be forgotten about after a few months. However, having Mike Tyson as a part of Pride could gain them enough mainstream attention to become a legitimate threat to UFC in America."
Which perhaps is true enough. But for those too young to remember, it didn't have to be like this for Tyson. At one time he seemed sure to go down in history as quite possibly the best fighter of the 20th Century, perhaps better than Joe Louis or even Muhammad Ali.
But that was then, and this is now. And while I may not allow myself to be as hard on Mike as insidepulse.com, they are exactly right when they realize that Tyson has no one else to blame for his fall but himself.
Can Mike pick himself up and become a better man out of the ring than he was within it? It is possible; George Foreman was known to have many of the same problems as Tyson. With faith, family and a little luck, Foreman was able to beat his demons.
If Mike's small incursions with PRIDE turn out to be part of the long road back to self-respect and dignity for the former champ, then we should truly wish him the best. But if this simply gives us more of the same flesh-eating, wife-beating creep who left the ring last year, then the fight game is better off without him.
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