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What If…PRIDE FC Never Folded?

Today MMA fans fondly recall PRIDE FC as the promotion that introduced them to the soccer kick, kneeing a downed opponent, and, yes, Emmanuel Yarborough. So what would the face of MMA look like today if PRIDE had not only survived, but thrived? Sound unrealistic? Perhaps, but remember that during PRIDE’s early days the UFC was on a steep decline until a little show called the Ultimate Fighter came around. Let’s figure out how it might’ve gone down…

Most fans know that back in 2007 Dream Stage Entertainment, the owners of PRIDE FC, sold the brand to the UFC. What they may not know is that PRIDE was initially intended to be a separate legal entity and identity (much like Strikeforce is today). Regardless of what Zuffa did or intended to do with the PRIDE brand, let just pretend that sale never took place.

Now that we’ve altered history, how would PRIDE get in a position to grow as the UFC has? Well, to quote Heath Ledger’s Joker character from The Dark Knight, “aggressive expansion.” The company held most of its shows in Saitama Super Arena in Japan. And, though the arena is a huge venue (housing some 37,000 spectators and in the midst of a respectably-sized city), they never did much in the way of branching out with the only exception being the promotion’s trip to Las Vegas in 2006.

The UFC today has made tremendous strides in making MMA a sanctioned, governed and legitimately recognized sport. Had PRIDE ventured into China, Great Britain, Ireland or Brazil as the UFC has done they might’ve expanded their product to a whole new audience, thus broadening their revenue.

Hypothetically speaking, what would the face of MMA look like had the beloved organization been able to accomplish this? Vastly different, of course. If PRIDE had “beaten” UFC in expanding and mass marketing MMA to the world, it’s conceivable that we may all be watching an American-packaged version of the product, complete with an American announcing team. We could even be watching a PRIDE-branded UFC. Can you imagine hearing, “Next on FX, Ultimate Fighter Live, presented by Pride Fighting Championships”?

Perhaps the most interesting piece we can speculate on is wondering if any of the super-fights we had hoped for when PRIDE became part of the UFC would have happened had the roles been reversed, if in fact the UFC would have been as determined to work with PRIDE and its management as they were in and around 2006-2009. Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko? Emelianenko vs. most of UFC’s roster? The possibilities are dazzling.

Although this alternate reality of course didn’t happen, we do have a great deal to be thankful for within the last six years within MMA following PRIDE’s dismantling. The sport has seen significant advancement, growth and its popularity has reached new heights. Of that, there is no question. However, the topic of how things might have unfolded if PRIDE remained a functioning entity is a different story altogether…

As such, please share your thoughts on how the landscape of MMA might appear had this “What If” actually taken place in the Comments section below…

  • darth_irritable says:

    The fighters would be worse off, for one thing. Say what you will about Dana – and you can – Zuffa treats the fighters a damn sight better than Pride. I don’t see them offering insurance for injuries.

  • raker says:

    Two things….

    1. The UFC introduced us to Emmanuel Yarborough.
    2. “If” your aunt had balls she’d be your uncle.

  • Damn it Raker you stole my answer.
    But to further the discussion steroids and freak match ups would be more common. There’s no doubt that steroids were a lot more prevalent in pride due to no testing for them and had pride continued I doubt they’d have taken the steps to get sanctioning the way zuffa has. On my other point I bet we wouldn’t have waited this long for gsp vs Silva as pride would’ve found a way to.get it done


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