Of all the companies that have tried to stand toe-to-toe with the UFC, Pride FC had the most success.
That is honestly putting it lightly. They were winning many of the rounds against Zuffa and Co., and seemed to have them on the ropes a time or two.
Pride FC started off strong, for sure. They had more money than the pre-Zuffa UFC and were able to gather themselves a large number of the best fighters in the world.
They had UFC legend Mark Coleman (the grandfather of ground n' pound), who would go on to become the first ever Pride Grand Prix champion.
They had the Gracies: Royce, Renzo, Royler and Ryan, and all the weight that came with their legendary name.
Then, they had “The Gracie Hunter”: Kazushi Sakuraba, who had won the UFC heavyweight tournament at UFC Japan and became the first true Japanese MMA superstar.
And if that was not enough, in their early days, they had Mark Kerr, who was recognized as just about the greatest heavyweight fighter alive.
From late 1999 through to about 2004-2005, it was a toss up as to what was the better organization: Pride FC or the UFC.
Pride put on massive shows that were equal parts event and spectacle, selling out massive stadiums.
But, they also indulged in overspending to a brutal degree.
In the end, poor money management and lack of vision, accompanied by the pressure of another top tier rival caused them to fold their hand and sell the company to the UFC.
Fans of the sport can look back at the time of Pride FC with no small amount of satisfaction and fondness. Pride FC helped grow the sport and made sure the UFC was continually bringing their A-game.
It was competition at its finest, and as great as Pride FC was, in the end, there could only be one winner—that was the UFC.