October 11th, 1997
Pride 1 saw a capacity crowd gather at the Tokyo Dome to witness the long awaited grudge match between Nobuhiko Takada and Rickson Gracie.

Takada, a pro wrestling legend, has been calling out Gracie for several years but until now those calls have fallen on deaf ears. However this newly formed promotion was able to put together a marquee matchup between the two veterans to headline its inaugural show.

There was bad blood going into the contest because Takada’s friend and fellow wrestler Yoji Anjo had traveled to the Brazilian’s dojo in the U.S. to challenge him. Gracie reportedly put a terrible beatdown on the Japanese fighter before choking him unconscious.

The question was, how would Takada’s wrestling skills translate into an actual mixed martial arts (MMA) contest? While the Japanese fighter has been putting on pre-rehearsed performances to great acclaim in the pro wrestling world, his opponent is a veteran of several real fights.

Famous family

Gracie comes from a family of famous submission fighters, his half brother Royce is a UFC champion, and his previous trips to Japan have been highly successful. He beat three opponents in a single night to win the Vale Tudo Japan tournament in 1994 and repeated the feat the following year.

Takada would need to use his wrestling skills to prevent the Brazilian putting him on the ground, where Gracie is renowned for his grappling and submission ability. The eagerly anticipated match started slowly with the Brazilian shuffling forwards and his opponent circling out.

About a minute into the contest Takada threw his first strike, a low kick which had no visible effect on Gracie. There was no action to speak of until the Japanese fighter allowed himself to be trapped in the corner.

Fortunately the referee came to Takada’s aid, separating the two men and restarting the fight as Gracie worked for a takedown.

Submission skills

Moments later Gracie would finally secure that all important takedown, although he ate a knee in the process. The Brazilian immediately mounted Takada and began to soften him up with punches to the midsection.

Takada was holding on for dear life but was clearly no match for the Brazilian on the ground. The Japanese fighter rolled to one side in a desperate attempt to escape but for Gracie this was merely an invitation to attack.

The Brazilian wrapped his legs around Takada’s right arm and sunk in an armbar with the Japanese fighter forced to tap immediately. The finish came at the 4:47 mark and extended the undefeated record of Gracie, who claims to have won over 400 fights.

Takada slips to defeat on his pro MMA debut and will need to go back to the drawing board if he wants to compete in this sport. After the fight he was comforted by Anjo, who knows exactly what it feels like to get submitted by Gracie.

Best of the rest

Earlier in the evening Renzo Gracie took part in a grueling 30 minute war of attrition with pro wrestler Akira Shoji. The Brazilian, who is Rickson’s cousin, had numerous submission attempts but was unable to find the finish with the match ending in a draw.

The bout between Kimo Leopoldo and Dan Severn ended in similar fashion. However there were stoppage wins for Koji Kitao and Kazunari Murakami, who submitted Nathan Jones and John Dixson respectively, and Gary Goodridge who knocked out Oleg Taktarov.

Pride 1, Tokyo, October 11th 1997
Rickson Gracie def. Nobuhiko Takada via Submission (Armbar) at 4:47 of Round 1
Kimo Leopoldo vs. Dan Severn ended in a Draw (time expired) at 30:00 of Round 1
Kickboxing: Branko Cikatic vs. Ralph White ended in a No Contest (Illegal kick) at 1:52 of Round 1
Koji Kitao def. Nathan Jones via Submission (Keylock) at 2:14 of Round 1
Renzo Gracie vs. Akira Shoji ended in a Draw (Time expired) at 10:00 of Round 3
Gary Goodridge def. Oleg Taktarov via KO (Punch) at 4:57 of Round 1
Kazunari Murakami def. John Dixson via Submission (armbar) at 1:34 of Round 1

This is part of our retrospective series looking at some classic shows and fights.