To the untutored, Sakuraba may seem like a bit of an odd fighter to be dubbed "Ikeru Densetsu" or "The Living Legend." A 26-16-1 record doesn't exactly set the world alight, and a latter day figure that looks more average than imposing, doesn't quite inspire the raw fear expected from a fighting legend. But, beyond numbers and appearances, that's exactly what Sakuraba is for many MMA fans. Someone who beat the unbeatable, at a time when reputation meant more than record. And who fought a ridiculous string of opponents at any weight, and as often as six times a year for Pride in it's heyday. Much like BJ Penn fighting Lyoto Machida, Sakuraba's battles against Mirko CroCop, Igor Vovchanchyn, Wanderlei Silva, Rampage Jackson, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, made the smallish middleweight beyond compelling.
Of course, it also makes those rare moments in which his interviews are translated into English, worth paying attention to. Here's what Sakuraba had to say about his time in Pride, and their matchmaking process, when sitting down with Dana White:
The more, I guess, impossible the fights got the more pissed off he became and the willingness to accept those fights grew stronger. But, in the end, they asked him to fight Fedor, he said no to that.
And he also revealed, that whether it was headlining Pride Shockwave 2003 against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, or opening Pride Critical Countdown 2004 against Antonio Schembri, he was always getting paid the same, fight to fight, opponent to opponent. Something that appeared to leave the UFC boss dumbstruck. Check out the whole thing, as it's a fun and fascinating look at one of MMA's all-time greats.