MMA fans all over the world admire the UFC, but if you were asked, what would you say is your favorite MMA organization of all time? Now a days, one organization ( the UFC) rules over the rest of them, but it didn’t always used to be this way.
At one point there was one big organization that some fans would say was on a higher scale than the UFC, plus with way better talent and fight match-ups. The best question is, what fighters from that organization made it and which ones failed…..
Pride Fighting Championships was a Japanese mixed martial arts organization and at one point was the biggest draw for MMA fans, not the UFC. Pride had a huge talent pool with their own style and flair.
Its fighters fought in a ring with their own set of rules: Pride matches consisted of three rounds; the first lasted ten minutes and the second and third each lasted five minutes. Pride used a five-roped square ring with sides 7m in length, plus Pride was know for their infamous head kick/head stomp rule for a downed opponent.
Some fans of MMA to this day have never seen a Pride fight, and to that I say, go rent and watch every single Pride event. You will learn so much about fighters that you probably are watching to this day. Pride held the largest live MMA event audience record of over 70,000 people at Pride Shockwave/Dynamite held in August 2002.
Pride fighters were in their prime and some would say that if a UFC fighter would of fought a Pride fighter back in the day ,that they would of been destroyed. We will never know, but there were definitely some great dream match-ups that fans never got to witness. Other fights like Chuck Liddell versus Wanderlei Silva would have been better played out under the Pride label. That fight actually almost took place in Pride, but Quinton “Rampage” Jackson defeated Chuck (for the first time) and was then later defeated by Silva.
Pride fighter likes Mirko “Crocop”Filipović, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva, Takanori Gomi, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Dan Henderson all had huge resumes under the Pride banner. The UFC was determined to get a hold of all of them, and did just that. Some did very well, while others fell flat.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was known in Pride for being a wild character with grueling slams. He is most known for his triangle choke slam on Ricardo Arona that left everyone who saw it on their feet. Jackson joined the UFC in February 2007 with a record of 26-6 already holding a win over light heavyweight champion at that time Chuck Liddell. Three months after winning his UFC debut, Jackson was given the chance to face Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell who was on a 7 fight winning streak, and who some considered the best UFC fighter at the time.
The rematch would set up one of the biggest UFC fights of all time and a changing of the guard for the light heavyweight division. Liddell would get caught on the chin early and suffer a first round knock out loss to Rampage. Jackson won the championship and the knock out of the night honors.
Some still consider him to be the man that melted the ice as Liddell was never the same again. Jackson left a huge impression on the UFC with wins over Liddell and Pride favorites Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva. Jackson also coached one of the most watched seasons of TUF (The Ultimate Fighter) opposite of his rival Rashad Evans. Rampage actually coached two seasons of TUF, losing both finale fights to Forrest Griffin (lost title) and to Evans. Rampage went 2-3 in his last five fights where he ended up bashing the UFC and basically going his own way. Rampage was a huge draw for the UFC, but in my eyes will always be remembered for his wild style in Pride fighting.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was another big name that made a huge impression on the UFC, but it didn’t start off as good for the Brazilian. Shogun who was 16-2 at the time and was thought to be one of the best in the world. He joined the UFC, holding wins over Rampage Jackson, Antônio Rogério Nogueira, Akihiro Gono, Akira Shoji (awesome stomp by Shogun), Ricardo Arona and multiple wins over Alistair Overeem.
Shogun was 11-1 under the Pride label only losing to Mark Coleman via a broken arm early into the fight, which is still crazy to watch to this day. Shogun lost his UFC debut to Forrest Griffin at UFC 76 and just didn’t look like the Pride fighter fans were familiar with. Some agree that he wasn’t himself due to injuries. Rua took time off to recover and didn’t fight again for two years where he then was reborn as the guy everyone knew from the Pride years.
Shogun defeated Mark Coleman (avenged Pride loss) via TKO in the third round in a back and forth battle which was dubbed the fight of the night. From there Shogun would TKO (knock out of the night) Chuck Liddell in the first round and earn himself a title shot against champ at the time Lyoto Machida.
The first fight was dubbed a unanimous even though Shogun, his corner, and Dana White thought he won. He was given a immediate rematch where he was the first one to defeat Machida. Shogun won the light heavyweight title, received knock out of the night and KO of the year with his first round knock out of “The Dragon.” Rua was expected to face Rashad Evans but he was replaced by up and comer Jon Jones due to injuries. Jones defeated Shogun in a one sided beat down via TKO in the third round in a passing of the torch as Jones has yet to be defeated.
Rua would return in rare form to avenge his lost to Forrest Griffin, knocking him out in the first round. In his next fight he would have a five round non-title war with former Pride veteran Dan Henderson that got voted in as the 2011 fight of the year. If you have never watched that fight, then you are missing out. Shogun lost the fight, but delivered a show for the fans in stylish fashion.
Shogun would then beat Brandon Vera by TKO in the 4th round and lose unanimous to Alexander Gustafsson. Rua was expected to face Antônio Rogério Nogueira in a rematch at UFC 161. However, Nogueira pulled out of the bout in the days leading up to the event with a back injury.
Chael Sonnen went to twitter and was briefly linked as a replacement for Nogueira. Alleged visa issue created a problem for Sonnen to get into Canada, resulting in Rua being pulled from the event altogether. The two are rumored to be linked to the Fox Sports1 1 card in Boston. Shogun isn’t done fighting and will always be known as the “face stomper” to me. Watch his Pride highlights.
Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson and Crocop where also supposed to be huge names from Pride that were supposed to make statement, but weren’t as successful as Rampage or Shogun.
Wanderlei Silva returned to the UFC coming off two straight Pride losses to “Hendo” and Crocop. Silva would lose a unanimous decision to Chuck Liddell which was fight of the year in 2007. Silva would then go 4-4 in the UFC, not ever winning two straight fights. He has beaten Michael Bisping, Keith Jardine, Cung Le and is coming off a impressive knock out of Brain Stann. Silva is still good for a fight, but the Silva that fought in Pride was not the one who showed up in the UFC.
- Wanderlei Silva Pride Fighting Championships Accomplishments
- Pride Middleweight Championship (One time, first)
- 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament Winner
- 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Semi-finalist
- 2006 Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix Semi-finalist
- First Fighter in Pride Fighting Championships history to win a Pride Championship and Pride Grand Prix
- Longest undefeated winning-streak in PRIDE FC history (20)
- Most wins in PRIDE FC history (22)
- Most consecutive wins in PRIDE FC history (18)
- Most knockouts in PRIDE FC history (15)
- Most successful title defenses in PRIDE FC history (4)
- Most successful title defenses in the history of PRIDE FC Middleweight division (4)
- Most consecutive successful titles defenses in PRIDE FC history (4)
- Most consecutive successful title defenses in the history of PRIDE FC Middleweight division (4)
One of the biggest names in Pride was one of the UFC’s biggest busts. K-1 and mma are different, and that was demonstrated in the UFC. Mirko “Crocop” Filipović was known in Pride for his K-1 background, accurate striking and the most deadliest of head kicks (right leg hospital, left leg cemetery).
Little did he know that karma would be waiting for him inside the octagon. He was given a 3 fight deal in order to get him to a title shot. He won his first fight before he was knocked out by Gabriel Gonzaga in one of the best knock outs in UFC history (best highlight ever). He would then lose a unanimous to Cheick Kongo and was let go. He was later resigned a couple years later after winning multiple fights in a row under the Dream banner.
He went 4-4 in his return losing to JDS, Frank Mir, Brendan Schaub and Roy Nelson. Pride fans will always remember Crocop for being one of the best and scariest strikers to ever enter the ring. UFC fans will always remember him as the guy who almost broke his own leg after being head kicked so hard by a BJJ grappler.
Dan Henderson has to be the worse case of Pride failure. He was the Pride middleweight and light heavyweight champion and lost them both in back to back UFC fights against Rampage Jackson and Anderson Silva. He would then win 3 in a row before he had contract disputes and ended up in Strikeforce.
Henderson was reborn in Strikeforce and even defeated former Pride standout Fedor Emelianenko. “Hendo” then returned to the UFC after Strikeforce was bought out. He is easily a future Hall-of-Famer, but will he ever get what he has wanted more than anything, a UFC championship? He had one chance at Jon Jones after he won the Rua fight, but then was injured and had to pull out. Pride “Hendo” will always be known as “The H Bomb” and the man who knocked out a lot of guys including Renzo Gracie.
UFC Dan Hendrson will always be known as the guy who lost both his titles, but to me he will always be the guy who knocked out Bisping at UFC 100. To true MMA fans like myself, he will always be known as the first guy to defeat Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira-split decision Rings: 1999 King of Kings Final.
Honorable mention: Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira
- PRIDE Fighting Championships Accomplishments
- Pride Heavyweight Championship (One time, first)
- Interim Pride Heavyweight Championship (One time)
- 2004 PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix Runner-Up
- 2006 PRIDE Open-weight Grand Prix Semi-Finalist
- Fought Fedor Emelianenko 3 times 0-2-1
Pride will always be remembered at Japan’s biggest MMA organization and the UFC wouldn’t of been able to do what they did when they did without some of their top fighters. I will never forget Pride as it left a huge impression in my MMA life. Pride fights are still some of the best to watch if you are a true MMA fan.