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RIZIN CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara says company will promote in America at 'the right time'

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Oct. 21, 2006, and Feb. 24, 2007 are dates that will forever live in mixed martial arts lore.

Those are the respective dates for PRIDE 32 and 33 in Las Vegas, the opportunity to see the legendary Japanese promotion in person that American fight fans had awaited for years.

The pair of cards at UNLV's Thomas and Mack Center delivered, too. Especially PRIDE 33, which featured a matchup between Nick Diaz and Takanori Gomi that is regularly name-checked among the most exciting fights in the sport's history; and Dan Henderson's knockout win over Wanderlei Silva, which made him the only simultaneous two-weight-class world MMA champion, an honor he holds to this day.

Current RIZIN CEO and former PRIDE boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara, considers those evenings to be among the most memorable events he has promoted.

"In the PRIDE days, we did shows in Las Vegas," Sakakibara said. "I was very emotional to put on an event [in the city] where MMA was born as a major event."

So, does Sakakibara have plans on bringing his new company Stateside? RIZIN's leader says they'll wait until the time is right.

"My dream is, I want to come back to US market with RIZIN," Sakakibara said. "We need the right time. We have to bring people back to the Japanese market, first."

Of course, a potentially stumbling block is getting RIZIN's PRIDE-style rules approved in a U.S. commission state. Back in 2006-07, PRIDE's events were held under a modified system, retaining the 10-minute opening round, but adopting the 10-point-must system used in North America.

The unified rules have become more deeply ingrained in the system over the past decade. But Sakakibara believes he'll be able to meet in the middle on rulesets again in order to stage an eventual show in a commission state.

"We've negotiated with the commissions before in the past, about certain rules and whatnot," Sakakibara said. "And I believe that soccer-ball kicks, knees to the head, those type of stuff may be difficult to negotiate, hard to get to, but the 10-minute rounds shouldn't be that much of an issue from a fighter's safety standpoint. 10-minute rounds shouldn't be that hard, shouldn't be harder than having to accept soccer-ball kick."

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