RIZIN CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara revealed his plans to pit Manny Pacquiao against a WWE-style wrestler on his debut for the company.
Boxing legend Pacquiao, an eight-weight world champion, signed with RIZIN following his rival Floyd Mayweather in doing so.
It’s thought Mayweather vs Pacquiao II could become a possibility. But for now, Pacquiao will be eased in on the mixed combat and martial arts circuit.
Sakakibara tries to entice “The Golden Star” Kota Ibushi to fight on RIZIN. If secured, Nobu wants Pacquiao vs Ibushi for a 2023 RIZIN show.
Ibushi, 40, recently left New Japan Pro-Wrestling at the back end of January. He has since attracted the attention of AEW’s Tony Khan.
Manny Pacquiao vs Wrestling star Ibushi
Pacquiao vs Ibushi would be a far-out contest if secured. Pitting a boxer against a wrestler hasn’t been seen since the days of Muhammad Ali vs Antonio Inoki in 1976 and Rocky Balboa vs Thunderlips on the big screen during the 1980s.
That fight intrigues the exhibition circuit, provided they are not taken too seriously. It’s not the worst match-up for Pacquiao and falls into the same bracket as Mayweather vs any of the kickboxers previously faced.
Despite injuring his shoulder in the battle against Kazuchika Okada in October 2021, Ibushi will be fit and ready to go for Pacquiao. All that needs to be arranged in the final details, as both fighters are reported to be on board.
Therefore, Nobu has spoken to Ibushi about Pacquiao and outlined, “I would like you to take on the challenge.”
Pacquiao signed with RIZIN on New Year’s Eve last year. At the time, Sakakibara was delighted to have become the first promoter to sign the two biggest boxing stars of their era.
Rocky vs Thunderlips
Nobu now wants to make a statement by recreating the scenario from Rocky III involving Sylvester Stallone and Hulk Hogan.
“If that happens, it would be great. It would be a truly different match,” Sakakibara said. “It won’t be a case of being too like Pacquiao. In that sense, it’s good [for business].”
At 5ft 9ins, Ibushi would hold a 15cm advantage over Pacquiao in the ring. That’s undoubtedly Rocky vs Thunderlips territory on a smaller scale.
Nobu says the addition of banning certain moves, like in the movie, would even things out for the fight.
“Certainly, if Pacquiao versus Ibushi is realized, what kind of match will it be? “It’s a big call for RIZIN. The rules are also flexible. I think I’ll approach it.”
In addition, he stated: “If you’re going to participate in the competition, wouldn’t it be nice to have a professional wrestling match?
“Unlike in the past, there is a clear distinction between professional wrestling and martial arts these days. Probably not many of our fans watch professional wrestling.
“I think I can serve as a bridge between professional wrestling and martial arts.”
Furthermore, watch this space.