Brian J. D’Souza, the author of the very interesting new book Pound for Pound: The Modern Gladiators of Mixed Martial Arts, has an interesting interview up at Liverkick with Mirko Mijatovic, the former agent of Mirko Crocop during those sketchy PRIDE yakuza days. The whole thing (part 1 and part 2) is worth reading, but here’s an interesting snippit on how corrupt things were in PRIDE:
PRIDE favored Mirko in matchmaking. We could handpick opponents, and PRIDE assisted us to ensure the opponents didn’t know that they were fighting Mirko until the last minute. Heath Herring and Igor Vovchanchyn were handpicked by us to set up victories on the road to a title fight with Fedor Emelianenko (who in the meantime had battered Nogueira to take the PRIDE heavyweight title). We all thought Mirko matched up better against Fedor than he would against Nogueira.
Most importantly, because PRIDE needed to protect their investment in their most marketable star, Mirko had the favor of the PRIDE referees—particularly Shimada. Shimada worked for PRIDE parent company Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE), including in its pro wrestling promotion and was close to top DSE management. Shimada knew what Sakakibara wanted and how to referee Mirko’s fights: quick stand-ups, repositions when things weren’t too good…watch the fights. These are little things, but they are helpful in a fight.
The article seems to be making some waves as Mirko himself is distancing himself from Mijatovic, claiming Mijatovic was never his manager and ‘just some guy who ordered food for us at Japanese restaurants.’ This would be easier to believe if Crocop hadn’t written a widely reported on letter in 2004 announcing the departure of Mijatovic as … dun dun duuuun! His manager.
None of the sketchy stuff going on in Japan is really a shocker to anyone who has followed the sport for a while. But now that time has passed and the financial incentive to keep quiet is gone, we’re starting to get all the nitty gritty details of what went on in the early 2000s Japanese fight scene. That’s basically what D’Souza’s book Pound for Pound is all about – stories of your favorite K-1 and PRIDE legends rolling around in the shit that was the JMMA scene.