After a restless night dreaming of geisha and samurai, I awaken at 7:30 a.m. and can't wait to get to breakfast. Each morning Pride provides a breakfast buffet for all of the fight camps and officials. Over the years, it has become somewhat of a tradition. There's a friendly and relaxed atmosphere in which old friendships are renewed and new ones are made. Table-hopping is accepted and commonplace.
'Doc' shared war stories with several
fighters, including Kevin 'The Monster'
For the next hour-and-a-half, I break bread and share war stories with Matt Hume, Quinton Jackson, John Hackelman, Chuck Liddell, Dan Henderson, Randy Couture, Bas Rutten, Mauro Ranallo and Murilo Bustamante. Over the next few mornings I enjoy the company of MMA's great and near-great, including Gary Goodrich, Kevin Randelman, Heath Herring and the Nogueira brothers.
After breakfast, I decide to take a walk to get rid of some kinks that I acquired during my flight to Japan. As I walk the streets, alleys and parks for the next two hours, I am struck by the civility of Japanese society. For instance, despite its terrible traffic, drivers display patience, common sense and a mutual respect that I've rarely encountered. Also, the sidewalks are full of pedestrians and almost as many bicycles. Despite this recipe for disaster, the pedestrians' right of way is respected, and it seems that no one even comes close to being run over. This common-sense approach to daily living, coupled with the prevailing mood of maintaining societal harmony, may be the reason I never saw a cop anywhere.
The Rules Meeting
After getting a couple of hours of sleep, I make my way to the hotel's main ballroom and the rules meeting, which is mandatory for every fighter and at least one of his seconds. Considering the haphazard approach to the rules meeting taken by most promotional organizations, this one could almost be considered a formal event. Each camp and its interpreter are seated at individual tables, each facing a slightly elevated stage and dais. Given the number of different languages being spoken, the meeting somewhat resembles the United Nations.
Seated at the dais are Dream Stage Entertainment CEO, Nobuyuki Sakakibara; general manager, Nobuhiko Takada; Yugi Shimada, executive rules director and chief referee; Matt Hume, rules director and official trainer; the English translator and me.
Mr. Sakakibara opens the meeting with a pep talk, encouraging each fighter to give his all for the fans and for each camp to act like professionals and to stay out of trouble. Mr. Takada, a former wrestler, famous for his 1997 and 1998 groundbreaking matches with Rickson Gracie in Pride 1 and Pride 4, respectively, echoes Mr. Sakakibara's sentiments. Having delivered their messages, they exit the meeting.
Mr. Shimada then reads each and every rule and answers all questions. After approximately one hour, the meeting concludes with the photographers and fighters doing their dance.
The Ice Man Filmeth
It's now 4:00 p.m., and I have some time to kill before going to a referee's meeting. I opt to go to one of the hotel conference rooms and watch some of the guys roll. Colin Oyama and Quinton Jackson come in with their crew and work on their game plan. Next up is Dan Henderson, Randy Couture and the other Team Quest members.
After 15 minutes, I leave and check out the room next door. Lo and behold who should I find but Chuck Liddell, his trainer, John Hackelman and the UFC film crew that has shadowed Chuck's every move since he landed in Japan. The "Ice Man"'s win over Alistair Overeem in the opening round of competition and his presence in the semifinals of this Middleweight Grand Prix has created an unbelievable excitement amongst the Japanese fans.
As much as I would like to continue watching the guys work out, I can't. I have to attend a referee's meeting. Over the next hour and 20 minutes, we discuss the upcoming matches, watch some fight videos and discuss the criteria for scoring.
A 600-Pound Gorilla
It is 7:30 p.m. Jetlag now feels like a 600-pound gorilla on my back, and I'm so hungry I can eat the south end of a northbound skunk. I'm going to grab something to eat and hit the sack. I'll talk to you later.
To be continued.
Need to See the Doc?
You can read Doc's otherarticles at www.mmarefs.com. He's also a columnist forInside Kung-Fu magazine.