Where Pride Stars Are 5 Years After the Zuffa Purchase
This fall will mark the five-year anniversary of Zuffa's purchase of Pride Fighting Championships, an event that reshaped the landscape of the MMA world.
For the better part of the 2000s, fans of mixed martial arts debated whether it was the UFC or Pride that had the better roster of fighters, which company put on better events and which organization was overall superior to the other.
These discourses ceased in 2007.
Shortly after the purchase was announced, Pride was eliminated, its operations shutdown and its stable of fighters was in part discarded, in part amalgamated into the UFC.
Here, we will take a look at what has become of some of the better-known fighters who carved out their niche in the world of mixed martial arts in Pride FC.
In addition to those who built themselves up through Pride, the organization saw lots of established, or soon to be established, talent grace its ring. Legends like Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva and Royce Gracie come to mind.
But this article will acknowledge those who spent significant time fighting under the Pride banner. Those who became stars there. Those that became legends.
Certainly, the promotion produced no shortage of either during the its golden age.
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When Pride FC was dissolved Aoki was just beginning to come into his own. The submission wizard went 4-0 in the promotion, defeating Joachim Hansen and Clay French.
Since his days in Pride, Aoki has mostly fought under the Dream banner. He has developed a reputation as one of the world's most dangerous ground fighters, but has failed to prove that he can succeed outside the Japanese circuit.
Still, Aoki factors into the majority of top 10 lightweight lists bouncing around the Internet.
Best known for being on the receiving end of Rampage Jackson's powerbomb, Arona fought nearly his entire career in the Pride ring.
The Brazilian didn't tarry long before following Pride out the door once it dissolved. His only fight since 2007 was a win over Marvin Eastman.
Rumors that Arona was set to transition to the UFC surfaced a year ago, but the move never materialized. He seems to be more or less retired at this point.
To classify Aurelio as a Pride star would be very generous to the Brazilian, who held a 3-3 record in the promotion.
Still, he tussled with the likes of Takanori Gomi and Mitsuhiro Ishida during his time there, which suggests he was at least an important part of the fighter stable.
Since Pride shut its doors, Aurelio has competed unsuccessfully in the UFC and Dream. He currently fights in various smaller promotions, which he tends to dominate.
Barnett may have made a name for himself in the UFC, but he was most certainly a Pride star.
Since battling the likes of Mirko Cro Cop and Minotauro Nogueira on a regular basis, Barnett has compiled a perfect 8-0 record.
He is currently set to combat Daniel Cormier for Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix honors, and has picked up the dubious distinction of contributing in large part to the ruin of the Affliction promotion.
Though he is known more for his accomplishments in the UFC, Belfort is an eight-fight Pride veteran.
Since his last fight in Japan, a loss to Dan Henderson, Belfort has seen the rebirth of his star. He has reemerged as a top contender in the UFC's middleweight division and is currently coaching opposite Wanderlei Silva on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.
If Belfort can beat Wanderlei in the post tournament coach's fight he will be poised to once again challenge for UFC gold.
Since amassing a 4-4 record in Pride, Bustamante has fought sparingly. He fought once in 2007, once in 2010 and once in 2012.
He won his last fight on March 31, 2012, but at 45 years of age, don't expect Bustamante to be too active moving forward.
Between 2004 and 2006, Ryo Chonan was one of Pride's most active fighters.
Since that time, he has made an unsuccessful foray into the UFC, picked up a couple of wins in the Dream organization and fought to mixed results in smaller shows.
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Coleman jumped from the UFC to Pride and then back again.
In his reprisal with the UFC, Coleman patched together a 1-2 record then retired.
The younger Emelianenko never had the mystique that Fedor had while in Pride, but his career afterwards has been successful, if unspectacular.
You won't find Emelianenko's post-Pride hit-list plastered with high-profile fighters, but 10-3 is nothing to scoff at.
Most of Aleksander's post-Pride fights have been fought in Europe.
The legend Fedor built in Pride continued to grow after the promotion went the way of Old Yeller.
"The Last Emperor" strung together wins over highly-regarded fighters under Bodog, Affliction and Strikeforce banners, before plummeting into a professional tailspin.
After one win in Strikeforce, Fedor suffered three consecutive losses. Since that time he has beat Jeff Monson and Satoshi Ishii, but the wins have done little to reinvigorate the Russian's image in the eyes of most fans.
Fedor will always be regarded as a true MMA legend, but five years after the dissemblance of Pride, he trudges on as a husk of the competitor he used to be.
After constructing an unblemished 7-0 record in Pride, Filho was shipped by new parent company, Zuffa, to the WEC promotion, where he became middleweight champion.
He defended his title once before losing it to Chael Sonnen. He then exited the promotion and pasted together a four-fight win streak before falling off the map.
Filho has competed as recently as September of 2011, but is not even a fraction of the fighter he was in Pride.
He has dealt with a multitude of psychological issues over the years and seems ready to fade from the MMA scene, if he has not already done so.
Cro Cop beat the mass exodus of Pride fighters to the UFC by a little less than a year.
He debuted stateside with a win, but two losses sent him packing back to Japan, where he competed in Dream and K-1.
Afterwards, he returned to the UFC for seven more fights, posting a pedestrian 3-4 record.
Mirko will always be a legend of Pride, but the promotion's demise more or less coincided with that of Cro Cop's own career.
The Croatian is now officially retired.
During his Pride days, Gomi established himself as one of the best 155ers in MMA.
Since that time, Gomi has earned six wins at the expense of five losses. He currently fights in the UFC, but is unlikely to be mistaken for a legitimate contender anytime soon.
The end of Pride was reflected by the end of the legend of Gomi.
Gono made waves at Pride Bushido events during 2005 and 2006.
After his Pride days, Gono had a cup of coffee in the UFC before returning to his native Japan where he currently fights in the Sengoku and Deep promotions.
To date, Gono has not been able to replicate his Pride successes.
Though Pride was made obsolete in 2007, Hansen's career maintain a relatively uninterrupted trajectory.
"Hellboy" had always mixed Shooto and K-1 fights in with his Pride bouts, and simply swapped Dream for Pride afterwards.
He continues to fight in Japan to moderate success. It seems that his best days are behind him, but Hansen remains one of the most recognizable faces on the Japanese MMA scene, and continues to put on entertaining fights.
"Hendo" went to the Land of the Rising Sun as a well-know mixed martial artist, but it was his performances in Pride that made him a superstar.
Henderson was one of a few fighters that fought exclusively for the promotion for a long period of time, posting a 13-5 Pride record between 2002 and 2007.
Dan left Pride as a two-weight class champion (205 and 185), which garnered him instant unification fights when he made the move to the UFC.
He failed to score victories for Pride in either his fight with Anderson Silva or Quinton Jackson, but his combined UFC and Strikeforce record since those losses is an impressive 7-1.
At 41 years of age, Henderson is poised to battle the winner of the Rashad Evans/Jon Jones match, for the UFC light heavyweight championship.
Herring found life to be rather difficult after Pride.
The American put up a 3-4 record in K-1 and the UFC before calling it quits in 2008.
Hunt debuted as a mixed martial artist in Pride. He lost his first match, then reeled off five straight wins, including decisions over Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Cro Cop.
When Pride dissolved, Hunt capped off an intrapromtional five-fight losing streak in the UFC.
While most thought the Super Samoan was done in MMA, three consecutive wins has got fans clamoring for Hunt to receive a title shot in the world's most recognizable promotion.
Whether that happens remains to be seen, but regardless, if Hunt can pick up a win over his next opponent, be it Stefan Struve or Junior dos Santos, he will represent one of the most unlikely success stories of any former Pride fighter.
Ishida joined the Pride roster in the year before its demise, but the stringent time limitations did little to quell the success of the "Endless Fighter."
Since Pride, Ishida has bounced between Dream and Strikeforce. He has found success difficult to come by in either.
His most recent fight was a loss to Doo Ho Choi at Deep 56: Impact.
Rampage established himself as a light heavyweight beast in Pride, before returning to his native America to dethrone long-time UFC champion Chuck Liddell.
Jackson defended his light heavyweight strap once before losing it to Forrest Griffin.
Since then, Rampage has gone 4-3, feuded with Dana White, made a fool out of himself on The Ultimate Fighter, made a mainstream motion picture and mentally thrown in the towel on his career.
Unfortunately, the questionable comments and decisions, as well as the subpar performances Rampage has submitted late in his career, have marred the way he will be remembered.
Many will remember him as a charismatic, outspoken fighter. But many others will remember him as unfocused, whiny and downright stupid and classless.
A seven-fight Pride vet, Kang participated in the Dream Middleweight Grand Prix before joining the UFC.
Once in the world's largest promotion, Kang's career fizzled out quickly. After three fights he was released from his contract and has been fighting to little success in Japan since.
MMA seems to have little room left for Kang, a fighter once considered to be a top 10 middleweight.
Kawajiri has continued to fight at a high level since the closing of Pride. That said, he has never been able to carve out a niche among the top ranked lightweights.
He mostly fights in Dream these days.
After a successful Pride career, Kharitonov fought sparingly before washing up in Strikeforce's Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Though eliminated by fellow Pride veteran, Josh Barnett, Kharitonov has reemerged as a legitimate heavyweight contender that would not look out of place tussling with the big boys in the UFC.
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Pride was Melendez's springboard to MMA stardom.
Since going 2-0 in Pride, Melendez has become one of the most highly-regarded lightweights on the planet, currently boasting the title of Strikeforce champion.
He also frequents lightweight power rankings.
Minowa has been ridiculously active since Pride closed its doors, fighting anyone who will get into the ring with him, regardless of their size.
Both wins and losses have come in great measure throughout Minowa's career, and the Japanese fan-favorite continues to grow his legend at a torrid pace in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Since battling a who's who of middleweights under the Pride banner, Misaki has kept busy by competing in Sengoku, Strikeforce, K-1, SRC and Deep events.
"The Hitman" has found moderate success wherever he has gone, and recently upset striking sensation Paul Daley.
At 35 years of age it seems like Misaki's best days should be behind him, but the Japanese star continues to perform well and is currently riding a three-fight win streak.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Pride FC produced few stars as bright and as enduring as Minotauro.
Since establishing himself as one of the best heavyweights of all time in Pride, Nogueira has transitioned to the UFC to moderate success.
His UFC record stands at 4-3, both wins and losses coming against top competition.
While Big Nog is still competitive, it seems that his Pride days are catching up with him. Once thought to be unfinishable, Nogueira has been stopped in each of his last three losses.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Little Nog did not follow his brother directly to the UFC after Pride dissolved. The light heavyweight picked up five wins in various promotions before entering the Octagon.
Nogueira has gone 8-2 since Pride, but only 3-2 in the UFC. He still fights at a high level, but at age 35, is an unlikely title threat.
After Pride, Overeem discovered "horse meet," and instantly put on 50 pounds of hulking muscle.
He has only lost once since Pride shutdown and is in position to challenge for the UFC heavyweight crown.
Of course, all that PED stuff might change that.
After fighting in Pride, Shogun was hyped as the UFC's next big thing.
Things did not really go as planned, however, as Shogun was soundly defeated by Forrest Griffin in his promotional debut.
After the embarrassing defeat, Shogun recollected himself and became the UFC's light heavyweight champion, but has since lost that accolade to Jon Jones.
While it would be hard to classify Shogun's post-Pride career as a failure, he has not impacted the UFC in a way that many had hoped he would.
At 30 years old, Shogun is far from over the hill, but a myriad of knee surgeries over the past few years does not exactly spell "electrifying comeback."
Though he never made the impact in Pride that little brother Shogun did, "Ninja" was a fine fighter in his own right.
After Pride, Murilo fought in a bevy of different promotions garnering moderate success.
He officially retired in 2011.
Sakuraba has stayed active since fighting in Pride, but success has come in diminishing returns over the past five years.
While "the Gracie Hunter" continues to be a big draw in Japanese MMA, he is currently reeling from four straight losses, and his fights are appreciated more as novelties than high-level competitions.
Sakurai continued to rack up wins after the Pride days, but has fallen hard since 2009.
In his last five fights Sakurai is 1-4.
Sakurai no longer factors into discussions about top fighters.
Wanderlei was one of Pride's biggest stars, but has struggled since leaving the promotion.
When Silva returned to the UFC in 2007, he did so with far too many miles on his body, which has mitigated his success. He has amassed a 3-4 record in the UFC, since leaving Pride.
Though success is fleeting in mixed martial arts, Wanderlei will forever remain the embodiment of what the Pride organization represents in the minds of thousands of nostalgic fans.
The promotion won't truly die until Wanderlei, hopefully ages from now, passes away.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
Sokoudjou burst onto the MMA scene in Pride's waning moments.
Debuting in the promotion with only three professional fights, Sokoudjou scored knockouts over two Pride stars in his only bouts with the promotion.
Afterwards, he wound up in the UFC and proved to be a two-hit wonder.
Since being released from his contract, "the African Assassin" has put together a 7-7 record in various shows.
Werdum is a 4-2 Pride veteran that is currently in the midst of a second stint with the UFC.
Since the Pride days, Werdum has become a household name and will be remembered as the man that sent Fedor Emelianenko spiraling into a tailspin.
Werdum showed off much-improved striking in his latest win over Roy Nelson, and is on the shortlist for a shot at Junior dos Santos' heavyweight title.
Yoshida was already in serious decline by the time Pride closed its doors.
He kept fighting in Japan until 2010 to mediocre results.
Yvel's horrific Pride record makes him anything but a star, yet he is a well-known veteran of the promotion.
After pride shut down, Yvel found his way into the UFC, but was sent packing after three consecutive losses.
His most recent fight was a knockout win over Houston Alexander.