A reader chastises me for not covering this sooner. Hardcore and casual fans (and those new to MMA looking to fill gaps in their knowledge as well as appreciate some of the sport's best and most meaningful action) rejoice:
One of the most popular MMA organizations in the world during its ten years of operation (1997-2007), PRIDE Fighting Championships, based in Japan, featured world class mixed martial arts artists in some of the most dramatic bouts in the early history of the sport. Spike TV will re-broadcast the best of these bouts in "The Best of Pride Fighting Championships," premiering Sunday, January 11, 2010 at 11pm ET/PT.
Hosted by Kenda Perez, the series features past and present UFC® champions among the legendary MMA combatants that includes Chuck Liddell, Anderson Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria, Dan Henderson, Mirko Cro Cop, Wanderlei Silva, Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Mark Coleman, Frank Trigg, Hidehiko Yoshida, Akihiro Gono and Takanori Gomi.
"As the destination for the best mixed martial arts on television, Spike TV is always looking for ways to give fight fans more of the incredible action and competition they crave," said Kevin Kay, president, Spike TV.
Pride held more than 60 mixed martial arts events during decade of operation including the largest live MMA event audience record of over 70,000 people in August 2002. In March 2007, Pride was purchased by the owners of The Ultimate Fighting Championship® brand.
A few names to notice there: Fedor Emelianenko, Hidehiko Yoshida, and Josh Barnett. Could they UFC actually be interested in not only promoting a competitor's top fighter but be willing to stick to historical accuracy? This, the same company that tried to erase Frank Shamrock from the record books?I guess we'll have to see how they handle treatment of the issue, although certainly with so many of PRIDE's top talent making the exodus to the UFC ranks the issue is less about how to handle the outliers than it is to magnify existing UFC stars.
One name missing? Perhaps the most important: Kazushi Sakuraba. Certainly trying to make the case for Sakuraba as being relevant to new fans of MMA is not an easy task, but is it any harder than doing so with other Japanese fighters who haven't fought in the UFC like Yoshida and Gomi (not to mention Sakuraba actually is a UFC veteran)? Yes, Gomi fought Diaz on American soil under the PRIDE banner, but that's a fight hardcores covet and casuals know nothing about.
Ultimately, though, you'll hear no complaints from me. More PRIDE is never a bad thing and it's about time these fights got some coverage beyond sitting on the shelves of your local Best Buy. A move like this can't be that beneficial to the UFC bottomline, so I'm inclined to believe this is the hardcore fan in White and Lorenzo shining through. Color me excited.