One of the weirdest fighting organisations in the world and its history.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship(UFC) has gained its desired notoriety now. The organisation based its original marketing on being an extreme sport, but over the last ten years it has worked its way into the mainstream. It lost the extremity for conformity. This change in the companies policy included a custom branded uniform, which put it more in touch with other American sports leagues. There is no competitor for the UFC today; but there was.
The UFC was not always the monolithic behemoth it is now. At one point there were many young and interesting fight organisations nipping at its heals. There was one though that never nipped, it always took chunks out of the UFC and at times threatened to swallow it whole. That organisation was Pride Fighting Championship.
Pride Fighting championships first started in 1997 and from the beginning it was a force within the combat sports world. It was a Japanese production and the Japanese fan-based pushed this forward. Pride FC was largely unknown in the western media, except for the hardcore fight fans. It still holds the record for largest attendance at an mixed martial arts (MMA) event which was 71,000, beating the UFC’s record by nearly 20,000.
The Pride FC formula was very different from the UFC formula. It required action and it brought the best fighters in the world for it. Towards the end of its run it had some of the best fighters in the world, such as Dan Henderson, Antonio ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira, Wanderlei ‘Axe Murderer’ Silva and Mirko Cro Cop. These legends of the sport where at the top of their weight classes, but there was one that was Pride FC’s big draw and that was Fedor ‘The last Emperor’ Emelianenko. Emelianenko wasn’t just good, his fighting style is something that shocks the viewers. He was the greatest fighter the world had ever seen. That is not hyperbole, he was the best ever in the sport of fighting, boxing despite its history is still only one aspect of fighting, Fedor as he proved could grab a boxer and launch him onto his own neck. Boxing produced limited fighters and the limited fighter was never able to change much. Fedor’s fighting style was life changing to those who saw it, the audiences never saw someone who could so easily kill everyone in the audience.
Pride FC had the best fighters in the world at that time. It also had the oddities. It let itself be taken out of the world of sport and created fights that were simply cruel. They had Choi Hong Man and ‘Giant’ Silva both these fighters were seven-foot-two and inept at fighting. They would bring in ex professional wrestlers, bodybuilders and traditional martial artists, none of which had any previous fight experience. Without training they would allow these to fight real fighters and usually they would end up getting hurt without a real fight. The fighters over seven feet would usually get tired after the first minute. The others would be considered successful if they could withstand one punch.
The Pride FC rules were also considered very odd, as they would allow stomps onto the head of the downed opponent. The only way that this was disallowed was when a fighter would gain extra force by propping themselves up on the ring and bring their heel down on the opponents head. They also had open weight fights that checked the list for freakshow events. One such fight was Emmanuel Yarbrough against Daiju Takase. It was odd from the beginning, Yarbrough was an amateur sumo wrestler and actor not a professional fighter. He also weighed over 600lbs, Takase weighed 160lbs. Yarbrough was put into this fight for the gimmick effect, the same as the taller athletes. Yarbrough plodded around the ring and eventually when Takase punched the heavier fighter Yarbrough collapsed and was pummelled until the referee saved him. Another odd so-called rule was allegedly detailed in the contract. Enson Inoue who fought in Pride FC claimed among others that the contract Pride FC fighters signed specifically said that it will not test them for steroids. Fighters who took part in the organisation said some of the best legal steroids were being injected before fights in the changing rooms. The use of steroids resulted in a lot of the fighters entering into losing streaks once they left the organisations. Fighters that were unbeatable lost to fighters that were suppose to be warm up fights.
All this occurred in a silent arena. The culture of the Japanese meant that they wouldn’t hoot, they would not holler when they would see something they liked. Instead the Japanese audience would be eerily quiet and await the next great fight.
The weird world of Pride FC was taking away a significant amount of business from the growing UFC. Pride FC and the UFC were in a war for the audience and Pride was winning at points, they seemed like they could put the UFC out of business and their attendance numbers were doubling the numbers of the UFC. It was a shock then in March 2006 the UFC bought Pride FC. They now owned the two biggest fighting organisations in the world and they would create a super-organisation. The fans were somewhat overjoyed at the idea of having Pride FC and the UFC under one organisation. They would finally be able to see the best fighters in world square off. That was the thought, that was the feeling of even the President of the UFC, Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta, the owner of the UFC. There was one major problem Pride FC was a money making and laundering scheme of the Yakuza(Japanese mob). The contracts were largely invalid and the only thing the UFC bought was the back-catalogue of fight highlights. One of the biggest fighting organisations in the world was essentially a mafia style scam.
Pride FC was grotesque and base. It was a freakshow that took advantage of the worst parts of human nature. It was also beautiful in that ridiculous way we cannot describe. It was similar to the running of a lion after its prey; for some they find it sad when the prey animal dies others stand in awe and wonder at the magnificence of it. Pride was insane, it required the esoteric and strange and that was what the audience loved about it. It was the circus, the weird and wonderful giving people what they never knew they wanted. So often those in the media are shocked when their movie or television idea is a flop, but the public lets them know what they want, the media just never listens. Pride FC was the media not only listening to the public but also anticipating its wants and giving it to them.