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Starting Over… (Special Video Vault)

Starting Over…

Kazushi Sakuraba was the chosen one.

In Japan during the early years of PRIDE Fighting Championships, no star shined brighter than that of Kazushi Sakuraba. Sakuraba made his name as one of the big names from Takada’s UWFI pro wrestling promotion – a company that relied on realistic “shoot-style” bouts that were meant to look more realistic than New Japan or All Japan (many in fact thought they WERE shoots).

When Sakuraba entered the PRIDE ring, he became instantly famous as the very first home grown “pro wrestler” in the company to fully adapt to Mixed Martial Arts and become one of the most talented grapplers in the game. Besides that, his innovation to use never-before seen tactics to confuse opponents helped him score victories over Carlos Newton, Vitor Belfort, and every single member of the legendary Gracie Jiu-Jitsu family that he was pitted against. When he beat Royce Gracie after 90 grueling minutes – he became a hero.

But alas, while he had grown to that hero in eyes of the Japanese, he wasn’t really the best. Sakuraba’s arch rival in PRIDE other than the Gracies was a young, hungry, vicious fighter from Brazil named Wanderlei Silva. While most Brazillians were known for their expertise on the ground game, Silva was known for his explosiveness, rage, and powerful Muay Thai attacks. At PRIDE 13, Sakuraba was pummeled by Silva in about a minute and a half of the first round. The rematch quickly came around at PRIDE 17 and this time, it was to crown the first PRIDE Middleweight Champion. This time, Sakuraba actually made it to the end of the first round, but then realized he had a broken collarbone and the doctors stopped the fight and awarded it to Wanderlei Silva.

Silva was the beginning of the end for Sakuraba as a legitimate threat to the middleweight division. Sakuraba went on to suffer losses to the cream of the crop of the MMA world such as Mirko Crocop, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Ricardo Arona, and was even beaten by Wanderlei Silva for the third time in the first round of the PRIDE 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix.

Alas, even the greatest of fighters have to…

Say it with me…

Start Over…

PRIDE 30 had been nicknamed “Starting Over” primarily for it’s two main events. Mirko Crocop had just lost to Fedor Emelianenko in a fight that was built up for two years and this was his chance for redemption as he faced former UFC and IWGP Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett for the second time. But besides that, Kazushi Sakuraba was scheduled to battle another man who desperately needed a restart to his career – “American Hero” Ken Shamrock, who had recently lost to Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin.

Sakuraba had to start over. He knew it. He had to forget everything he learned and train harder than he ever had in the past in order to make a real comeback. Kazushi Sakuraba went to the most unlikely place to get the right training; Brazil’s Chute Boxe Academy – home of Wanderlei Silva.

Silva, a man who feuded with Sakuraba for years and years, greeted him with a smile and hug and promised him victory against Shamrock. The Japanese claim that Sakuraba “knew every magic and trick under the sun” (a line taken from the popular Japanese TV show SaiyÅ«ki’s theme song; yeah I’m a geek), but fact was – he still had much more to learn. So the Brazilians worked Sakuraba over harder than anything he’d ever experienced all those years in Takada Dojo. He was in here with the BEST; Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Shogun, Anderson Silva, Gabriel Gonzaga, Evan Tanner, Jose Pele – the list goes on! Remember in Rocky III when the only person who could whip Rocky back into shape was his rival – Apollo Creed? Sakuraba HAD to do it… he HAD to start over.

Kazushi Sakuraba is a prime example of swallowing your PRIDE (pun intended), looking ahead, realizing your mistakes, and…

…Starting Over…

Part 1:

Part 2:

It’s amazing that MMA has more intriguing storylines than pro wrestling, and yet they can’t fix the outcomes. Isn’t that incredibly sad?

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