On April 8, 2007, Pride Fighting Championships held their last show promoted by Dream Stage Entertainment before being bought by the owners of the UFC, Zuffa LLC.
The company had been in existence for 10 years, and during most of that time they were the premier organization in the world of MMA, selling out stadiums while the UFC was struggling to sell out arenas.
Once Pride was bought out, a new MMA promotion, Dream, was born, and it seemed that Pride was destined to live on, albeit in different incarnations. Dream enjoyed some success, but not enough to keep the company alive, as they closed their doors on May 16 of this year.
Now, ONE FC looks to pick up where Dream left off.
With so many MMA companies from Japan rising and falling—always looking to reach the level of success enjoyed by Pride FC when it was the biggest MMA promotion in the world—each a little bit lesser than the last, is it safe to say that the days of Pride FC are finally over?
Is Pride finally dead?
Let’s hope that is not the case.
The sport of MMA has long enjoyed high levels of attention in Japan, and many fighters who have fought in the Land of the Rising Sun have said they love fighting for the Japanese fans, who appreciate many aspects of the sport that other fanbases do not.
A strong Japanese MMA promotion is certainly not necessary for the continued growth of the sport. But there are too many fighters for just a handful of companies to accommodate. After all, the whole of the MMA world does not belong to the UFC alone.
A Japanese MMA promotion would serve the sport well in addition to keeping the flame lit in a country that clearly enjoys earnest fighters fighting earnestly.
It may be necessary for promotions to continue to rise and fall in Japan before the next in line finally get it right, and that is as it should be. As fighters evolve, so do promotions, one would hope.
But in the end, Pride should be allowed to die, just so another, better Japanese organization can rise and take the next steps to shepherd that fire of competition that is so clearly beloved by the fans of that country. There is another group of Japanese fighters just waiting to be discovered, and chances are much of the early work—important beyond telling as they learn how to ply their trade—will be done at home, in front of modest to huge crowds that watch the sport as eagerly as anyone else.
Many seem to be of the mind that Pride has lingered on far longer than it should have, but in truth it seems that it lingered for as long as it is needed. Were the demand not there, the memory would fade quickly; yet we know that is not the case.
And while the UFC is, and probably will continue to be the biggest MMA show on earth, it is unrealistic to think that certain countries will not go about the business of celebrating their own and seeing them rise up as far as they can push them.