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RIZIN CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara: UFC fighters 'all look the same in their costumes'

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Over-the-top characters were an integral part of what made the PRIDE Fighting Championship so memorable.

Personalities as diverse as Bob "The Beast" Sapp, "The Fireball Kid" Takanori Gomi and "The Axe Murderer" Wanderlei Silva helped the legendary Japanese promotion flourish as a blend of sport and spectacle.

Would PRIDE have made such an indelible mark in the history of mixed martial arts if the fighters all had to wear lookalike gear? Nobuyuki Sakakibara, the former CEO of PRIDE and the current boss of RIZIN, doesn't believe so.

So don't expect RIZIN to pursue a deal like the UFC's exclusive apparel agreement with Reebok any time soon as it works to develop the next generation of Japanese stars.

"We feel like we need to respect each individual," Sakakibara said through an interpreter. "Each athlete's character and personality matter more."

Letting a fighter's persona shine through helps them develop into stars, and how they present themselves to the people in the arena an on television is part of the package, Sakakibara believes. When he watches UFC events these days, though, he sees a bunch of fighters who look alike.

"The UFC doesn't respect the individual," Sakakibara said. "The fighters all look the same in their costumes now. In order to stand out, you need to become unique and get all tatted up like Conor McGregor or speak up, those are the things you can do to stand out."

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