UFC President Dana White and RIZIN FF Founder Nobuyuki Sakakibara go way back.
During the rise of the UFC in the early 2000s, PRIDE FC was doing its thing over in Japan. 15 years later and two most prolific MMA bosses reunited recently.
PRIDE only held two statewide events in Las Vegas during its 10-year run. Now with RIZIN’s continued success along with Nobuyuki Sakakibara and Dana White on good terms, there’s the possibility for some kind of collaboration.
— Drake Riggs (@DrakeRiggs_) June 13, 2021
“I like Sakakibara,” Dana White told media after UFC 263 when asked if he’d ever work with RIZIN and Sakakibara for a US return. “I always did, even when we were really hardcore competitors. He was a fun guy to compete with. And I don’t know… I’m not saying that I would but I’m not saying I wouldn’t either. At the time when we competed, when PRIDE and UFC were both first coming up, it was just such a different time in the sport.”
Immediately following Saturday night’s UFC 263 event in Glendale, Arizona, RIZIN 28 took place and went down as a historical landmark. It was the first MMA event inside the iconic Tokyo Dome in 18 years – PRIDE Final Conflict 2003 being the last.
Nobuyuki Sakakibara and Dana White met on two occasions preceding the event. One in a surprise fashion at Floyd Mayweather’s Las Vegas home, and the other in an office which can be seen in a RIZIN 28 pre-fight video.
Aside from seeing fighters go two and from promotions in the modern-day—such as Kanako Murata, Jiri Prochazka, and Daron Cruickshank—that’s been about the extent of the two promotions working together.
Longtime fans will remember the heyday of the Dana White and Nobuyuki Sakakibara rivalry where the UFC sent over Chuck Liddell to compete in the middleweight Grand Prix. Coincidentally enough, Liddell came up short at the aforementioned PRIDE Final Conflict 2003 when running into Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.