|Industry||Mixed martial arts promotion|
|Parent||Dream Stage Entertainment|
PRIDE Fighting Championships (Pride or Pride FC, founded as KRS-Pride) was a Japanese mixed martial arts promotion company. Its inaugural event was held at the Tokyo Dome on October 11, 1997. Pride held more than sixty mixed martial arts events, broadcast to about 40 countries worldwide. PRIDE was owned by the holding company Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE).
For the ten years of its existence, PRIDE was one of the most popular MMA organizations in the world. Pride broadcast its event on Japanese pay-per-view and free-to-air television for millions of spectators in Japan, holding large events in sports stadiums, including the largest live MMA event audience record of 91,107 people at the Pride and K-1 co-production, Shockwave/Dynamite, held in August 2002, as well as the audience record of over 67,450 people at the Pride Final Conflict 2003.
With its origins in Japanese professional wrestling, PRIDE was known for its focus on spectacle and entertainment. Events were proceeded with opening ceremonies and fighters had elaborate entrances. There was no formal weight classes—except for championship belt bouts and the Grand Prix tournaments—and fighters would often matched with opponents from wildly different weights. Including the frequent promotion of "technique vs size" freakshow fights. Pride also had the Grand Prix, one-night single-elimination tournaments with multiple fighters. The PRIDE ruleset was also more permissive then the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, permitting soccer kicks, stomps and knees to downed opponents, body slams directly in the head ("spiking"), and allowed more fighting outfits, including wrestling shoes and keikogis. Matches were done in a boxing-style roped ring and went for an opening ten minute round followed by two rounds of five minutes.
In 2006, DSE started to have financial issues, as a scandal revealing ties between the company and yakuza resulted in the end of multiple lucrative contracts with Japanese broadcasters. In March 2007, DSE sold Pride to Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta III, co-owners of Zuffa, which, at the time, owned the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). While remaining as legally separate entities with separate managements, the two promotions were set to cooperate in a manner akin to the AFL-NFL merger. However, such an arrangement did not materialize, and in October 2007, Pride Worldwide's Japanese staff was laid off, marking the end of the organization as an active fight promoter. While the top and most popular fighters were brought to the UFC. As a result, many of the Pride staff left to form a new organization alongside K-1 parent company Fighting and Entertainment Group. That new organization, founded in February 2008, was named DREAM.
In 2015, Pride's co-founder and former president Nobuyuki Sakakibara established Rizin Fighting Federation in Japan with the same philosophy and ambition as for the defunct Pride organization.
Pride has its roots on Japanese Professional wrestling (Puroresu). In the 1970s, Antonio Inoki rose to pronominance in Japan by founding New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) and introducing his own style of wrestling he dubbed "Strong-style", derived from training in Karate and Catch-As-Catch-Can, an earlier style of legit Professional wrestling and submission grappling, taught by Karl Gotch. This style was more realistic, using full contact strikes and a lot of kicks, as well as realistic grappling moves from his Catch Wrestling training. Inoki promoted professional wrestling as a legit and real combat sport and the "strongest" fighting style, and to prove it he fought worked (i.e predetermined) matches against fighters from other martial arts and combat sports, such as judo, kickboxing, sumo and karate, known as "heterogeneous combat sports bouts" (Ishu Kakutōgi Sen; 異種格闘技戦). In 1976 Inoki fought a match against boxing world-champion Muhammad Ali, since neither fighter could agree on who would be the loser, the match envolved into a Shoot (i.e real) fight between the two contestants, eventually resulting in a draw.
The match against Muhammed Ali, as well the other heterogeneous style bouts inspired a lot of Inoki's students. They left NJPW and founded a new company named Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF), which promoted a realistic style of pro-wrestling that eschewed the most theatrical elements of wrestling and resembled closer to an actual fight, but it was still predeterminated. This style would become known as "Shoot Wrestling". The UWF closed in 1990 and was succeeded in 1991 by the UWFi, which became one of the top professional wrestling promotions in Japan, as their brand of shoot wrestling proved to be exceedingly popular with the Japanese public. The main attraction and most popular star of the UWFi was Nobuhiko Takada. The other precursors of Pride were the Japanese mixed martial arts competitions and shoot style pro wrestling promotions Shooto, a self-styled hybrid martial art organization founded in 1985 by former shoot wrestler "Tiger Mask" Satoru Sayama, Pancrase founded in 1993 by wrestlers Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki attempting to create a non-scripted shoot wrestling promotion, Vale Tudo Japan, a Vale Tudo tournament organized in 1994 by Satoru Sayama based on the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Kingdom, founded in 1997 as a successor to the UWFi. Pride was also influenced by the wild rise of K-1, a kickboxing promotion founded in 1993 which became very popular in Japan for its huge and action-packed tournaments.
Pride Fighting Championships was initially conceived of in 1997, to match popular Japanese pro-wrestler Nobuhiko Takada with Rickson Gracie, the purported champion of the Gracie family of Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners, who gained popularity in Japan after winning the 1994 and 1995 Vale Tudo Japan tournaments and brutally defeating UWFi pro wrestler Yoji Anjo in a dojo storm at Rickson's gym in Los Angeles. The event, held at the Tokyo Dome on October 11, 1997, and organised by Hiromichi Momose, Naoto Morishita and Nobuyuki Sakakibara from KRS (Kakutougi Revolutionary Spirits) promotion, attracted 47,000 fans, as well as Japanese mass media attention. The success of the first event enabled its promoters to hold a regular series of mixed martial arts events, and a year later in 1998, to promote a rematch between Takada and Gracie. With K-1 enjoying popularity in Japan, Pride began to compete with monthly showings on Fuji Television, as well as pay per view on the newly formed satellite television channel SKY PerfecTV. Following the fourth event, the series was taken over by the Dream Stage Entertainment, formed by the members of the dissolved KRS, and it was accordingly renamed as the Pride Fighting Championships, with Morishita as its first chairman.
In 2000, Pride hosted the first Pride Grand Prix, a two-part openweight tournament held to find the "world's best fighter". The tournament was held over the course of two events, with sixteen fighters competing in an opening round and the eight winners returning three months later for the final round. The second round of the tournament marked the first time Pride was broadcast in the United States and featured American fighter Mark Coleman winning the tournament by defeating Igor Vovchanchyn in the final round. Pride would gain a fervent fanbase in the US, boosted by a highlights deal with Fox Sports Networks and regular DVD releases of Pride shows including older cards that were not initially screened outside of Japan. English-language commentary for Pride was provided by Stephen Quadros or Mauro Ranallo, with Bas Rutten or Frank Trigg providing analysis.
In August 2002, Pride teamed up with Japan's leading kickboxing and fight promotion, K-1, and held the world's biggest fight event, Shockwave (known as Pride/K-1 Dynamite!! in Japan), which attracted over 71,000 fans.  On January 13, 2003, the Pride MMA production was thrown into turmoil when DSE president Naoto Morishita was found dead hanging by his neck in his hotel room, apparently after his mistress told him she wanted to end their affair. One of the stories go that Fedor Emelianenko was held at gunpoint to resign with Pride  Nobuyuki Sakakibara later assumed the presidency, later joined by Takada as a general manager.
In 2003 Pride introduced the Bushido series of events, which focused mainly, but not exclusively, on the lighter weight classes of lightweights and welterweights. The Bushido series also stressed a faster pace, with bouts consisting of only one ten-minute round and one five-minute round, as well as quicker referee intervention of stalling tactics, using the new "yellow card" system of purse deduction.
Also in 2003, Pride returned to the tournament format, with a middleweight grand prix spanning two events, Pride Total Elimination 2003 and Final Conflict 2003. The format was expanded to three events in 2004, adding Critical Countdown 2004 as the second round. Pride would go on to hold annual tournaments, a heavyweight tournament in 2004, a middleweight in 2005, and an openweight in 2006.
In 2006 DSE announced it would showcase Pride alongside the Ultimate Fighting Championship, North America's largest MMA event, and would be integrating their fighters, including Wanderlei Silva and Kazuyuki Fujita, at a UFC MMA show in November. However, Dana White, speaking on behalf of Zuffa then commented that the announced bout between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva was unlikely to happen because "the Japanese are very hard to do business with". This statement was likely due to the failure of previous attempts between Zuffa and DSE to organize a fighter exchange agreement. Specifically after entering Liddell in Pride's 2003 middleweight tournament, which was also with the intention of Liddell eventually fighting Silva, which fell through when Liddell lost in the semi-finals to Quinton Jackson (Jackson subsequently lost to Silva by technical knockout in the finals.)
Pride continued to enjoy success, holding roughly ten events per year, and even out-drawing rival K-1 at the annual New Year's Eve show Pride Shockwave 2005. On October 21, 2006, Pride held its first MMA event in US, Pride 32: The Real Deal took place in front of an audience of 11,727 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Paradise, Nevada, and was the first Pride event to be held outside Japan.
On June 5, 2006, the Fuji Network announced that they were terminating their television contract with Pride Fighting Championships effective immediately due to a breach of contract by DSE. This left Pride with only SKY PerfecTV, a pay-per-view carrier, as a television outlet in Japan, and the loss of the substantial revenues from the Fuji deal threatened its sustainability. Dream was surrounded by speculation in the Japanese media, especially in the Japanese tabloid Shukan Gendai, that it may be a front for the notorious yakuza crime organization. Dream responded to the loss by stating they will continue with their schedule as currently planned, including an event in Las Vegas, Pride 33: Second Coming which took place on February 24, 2007, Pride's second event outside Japan.
In late 2006, DSE hinted at plans for Mike Tyson to fight in the organization's New Year's Eve show. Tyson was to face a Pride fighter under boxing rules. Since Tyson is not allowed to fight in Japan because of his criminal record, Pride wanted to stage the fight in an alternate country, possibly Macau, China. The fight would be broadcast live on large television screens in the Saitama Super Arena, where the regular mixed martial arts bouts were held. The fight did not occur, however.
On November 29, 2006, Pride announced the discontinuation of its Bushido events, with the intention of integrating the matches from lighter weight classes, mainly featured in Bushido, into regular Pride events. Pride also announced that future Grand Prix tournaments would take place on a four-year weight class cycle, with one Grand Prix per year. The first expected one, a lightweight Grand Prix, ended up being cancelled.
On Tuesday, March 27, 2007, Pride executives Nobuyuki Sakakibara and Nobuhiko Takada announced that Station Casinos Inc. magnate Lorenzo Fertitta, co-owner of Zuffa and its subsidiary MMA production Ultimate Fighting Championship, had made a deal to acquire all assets of Pride Fighting Championships from Dream Stage Entertainment after Pride 34: Kamikaze in a deal reportedly worth USD$65 million, though the figure was not publicly disclosed. Managing the assets under the newly created Pride FC Worldwide Holdings, LLC, including their video library and the contracts of the fighters currently on the Pride roster, the new management company had originally planned to continue to promote Pride events in Japan and keep to its previously announced schedule. Lorenzo Fertitta announced they planned to operate Pride separately from Zuffa's two MMA brands, the UFC and WEC, planned on having occasional crossover shows and matches, pitting fighters from Pride against fighters "from the UFC," using the metaphor of the AFL-NFL merger to compare the situation.
Subsequent remarks by Zuffa spokesperson Dana White however cast doubt as to what the new owners would actually do with Pride. After the sale officially closed on May 25, 2007, White remarked that he planned on bringing Pride's biggest names into UFC competition instead of keeping them in Pride and that they were still deciding on what to do with Pride itself. In later comments made in August 2007, White expressed doubt that Zuffa can resurrect Pride in Japan, claiming, "I've [or, we] pulled everything out of the trick box that I can and I can't get a TV deal over there with Pride. I don't think they want us there. I don't think they want me there."
On October 4, 2007, Pride Worldwide closed its Japanese office, laying off 20 people who were working there since the closing of DSE.
The final Pride events have been released on DVD under the Pride Worldwide label.
Past fights from Pride are shown on Best of Pride Fighting Championships. The program premiered January 15, 2010, on Spike TV. The program's host is Kenda Perez.
Pride Fighting Championships released two licensed video games during its time in business, as well as being featured in an Ultimate Fighting Championship game in 2012.
Pride's rules differed between main Pride events and Bushido events. It was announced on November 29, 2006, that Bushido events would be discontinued.
Pride matches consisted of three rounds; the first lasted ten minutes and the second and third each lasted five minutes. Intermissions between each round were two minutes long. In Pride events held in the United States, NSAC Unified MMA rules were used: non-title matches consisted of three five-minute rounds and title matches consisted of five five-minute rounds, both with 60-second intermissions between rounds.
When two rounds of a Grand Prix took place on the same night, Grand Prix bouts consisted of two rounds, the first lasting ten minutes and the second lasting five. Intermissions between each round remained two minutes long.
|Weight class name||Weight limit||Since|
|Lightweight||73 kg (161 lb)||2004|
|Welterweight||83 kg (183 lb)||2004|
|Middleweight||93 kg (205 lb)||2000|
|Openweight||No weight restrictions||1997|
Pride used a five-roped square ring with sides 7 m in length (approximately 23 ft). The same was used at Pride: Bushido events.
Pride allowed fighters latitude in their choice of attire, but open finger gloves, a mouthguard and a protective cup were mandatory. Fighters were allowed to use tape on parts of their body or to wear a gi top, gi pants, wrestling shoes, kneepads, elbow pads, or ankle supports, and masks at their own discretion, though each was checked by the referee before the fight.
Matches could be won via:
Pride Fighting Championships considered the following to be fouls:
In the event that a fighter was injured by illegal actions, then at the discretion of the referee and ring doctor, the round would attempt to be resumed after enough time had been given to the fighter to recover. Once the fight started again the fighters would be placed in the exact position when the referee called the time out. If the match could not be continued due to the severity of the injury then the fighter who perpetrated the action was disqualified.
Pride made special provisions for fights between fighters of different weight classes or fighters with a large weight difference in the same weight class. The lighter fighter was given a choice of whether or not to permit knees or kicks to the face when in the "four points" position in the following cases:
The word BUSHIDO translates from the Japanese language as "the way of the warrior." More specifically, the term refers to the principals and moral code that developed among the samurai (military) class of Japan. Today, in the spirit of the samurai from Japan, PRIDE FC brings you the "way of the warrior" with its mixed martial arts event, BUSHIDO. Featuring a mixture of elite fighters as well as young up and coming talent, BUSHIDO presents the entire spectrum of weight classes, from lightweights to heavy weights. In addition, BUSHIDO provides flexibility for more experimental fight card formats, such as "team" competitions pitting country versus country, or fight team versus fight team. BUSHIDO also welcomes up and coming fighters, giving them an opportunity to prove themselves in BUSHIDO "Challenge Matches."  There were a few minor differences from main Pride events:
Some states' athletic commissions require mixed martial arts events to modify rules to match the Mixed Martial Arts Unified Rules of Combat, as introduced by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, and adopted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission in order to receive state sanctioning.
Pride's rules differed from the Unified Rules of Combat in the following ways:
At the announcement on March 27, 2007, that the Fertittas were purchasing Pride, it was stated that all future Pride events (after Pride 34) would be held under unified rules, eliminating 10-minute opening rounds, ground knees, stomps and more, though there were no more Pride events held to use these rules.
Main article: List of Pride events
Events typically begin with the theme music entitled Pride, composed by Yasuharu Takanashi. In addition to their main, "numbered" events, Pride have staged other series of events for different purposes.
The Pride GP (Grand Prix) is the name of a series of tournaments held by Pride. In addition to a money prize, a championship belt was given to the winner of each tournament, though this belt only denoted the tournament winner and would never be defended. However, Pride's Shockwave 2005 event crowned not only the welterweight and lightweight tournament champions, but also Pride's inaugural welterweight and lightweight champions. Of note is the amount of past and future champions that would participate in these tournaments.
In 2000, Pride held their first Grand Prix. With no weight limits, it is now considered to be their first openweight grand prix. Held across two events, Pride Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round featured first round bouts and Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals featured the quarter finals, semi finals and final.
The concept was brought back in 2003, with a middleweight grand prix. Held across two cards, Pride Total Elimination 2003 featured the first round of the Grand Prix and Final Conflict 2003 featured the semi finals and final. Subsequent middleweight, heavyweight and openweight grands prix had taken place across three events when, in 2004, Critical Countdown was introduced for second round bouts. Both Critical Countdown and Final Conflict had a mix of Grand Prix and non-Grand Prix matches.
In 2007, it was announced that Pride would hold only one Grand Prix a year and it would rotate between each of their four established weight classes.
Except for the inaugural 2000 Grand Prix, tournament dates with only one round would adhere to normal Pride or Pride Bushido rules. For tournament dates that held two rounds, a fight had a 10-minute first round, followed by a two-minute rest period for the fighters, and then a five-minute last round.
The 2000 Finals held a 90-minute contest between Kazushi Sakuraba and Royce Gracie. Gracie had requested that there be no judging and no limit to the number of rounds. Sakuraba agreed to fight under these rules, and the contest went to a total of 90 minutes of fighting, after which Gracie's corner threw in the towel due to damage to Gracie's legs. Sakuraba advanced to the next round, fighting a fifteen-minute first round against eventual runner up Igor Vovchanchyn, after which Sakuraba's corner threw in the towel citing his exhaustion.
|2000||Openweight||Opening round, finals||Mark Coleman|
|2003||Middleweight||Pride Total Elimination 2003, Final Conflict||Wanderlei Silva|
|2004||Heavyweight||Total Elimination, Critical Countdown, Final Conflict||Fedor Emelianenko|
|2005||Middleweight||Total Elimination, Critical Countdown, Final Conflict||Mauricio Rua|
|2005||Welterweight||Bushido 9, Shockwave||Dan Henderson|
|2005||Lightweight||Bushido 9, Shockwave||Takanori Gomi|
|2006||Openweight||Total Elimination, Critical Countdown, Final Conflict||Mirko Filipović|
With Pride's numbered shows and Grands Prix focused on heavier fighters, in October 2003, Pride started a series of events entitled "Bushido". With the focus on lighter combatants, two weight classes, lightweight and welterweight, were formed at 73 and 83 kg respectively. After Pride Bushido 13, it was announced that the series would end and these weight classes would transfer to main Pride shows.
In 2005, Pride Bushido staged welterweight and lightweight Grands Prix. Two eight-man brackets were set up and the quarter finals and semi finals were held at Pride Bushido 9, along with an alternate bout in each bracket. The finals were held at Pride Shockwave 2005, with the winners subsequently being crowned as champions for their division. A sixteen-man welterweight grand prix was held in 2006.
In 2002, Pride launched The Best, a series of shows featuring up-and-coming fighters, using an eight-sided roped ring. However, after the third show in October 2002, the series was discontinued. The concept was later refined into the Pride Bushido events.
Main article: List of Pride champions
When Zuffa LLC bought Pride, it moved to unify the Pride middleweight and welterweight titles with its own light-heavyweight (205 lbs) and middleweight (185 lbs) titles. Dan Henderson, who held both the Pride middleweight and welterweight belts at the time of the Zuffa buy-out, was beaten in two unification bouts, first to Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson in September 2007 and then to middleweight Anderson Silva in March 2008.
The titleholders below were those who held the titles on April 8, 2007, the date of the last Pride FC promoted show.
|Division||Weight limit||Champion||Since||Title defenses|
|Heavyweight||Unlimited||Fedor Emelianenko||March 16, 2003||3|
|Middleweight||93 kg (205 lb)||Dan Henderson||February 24, 2007||0|
|Welterweight||83 kg (183 lb)||Dan Henderson||December 31, 2005||0|
|Lightweight||73 kg (161 lb)||Takanori Gomi||December 31, 2005||1|
An asterisk (*) indicates that the tournament was also a title fight.
|Year/weight division||Champion||Runner up||Event|
|2000 Openweight||Mark Coleman||Igor Vovchanchyn||Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals|
|2003 Middleweight||Wanderlei Silva||Quinton Jackson||Pride Final Conflict 2003|
|2004 Heavyweight||Fedor Emelianenko||Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira||Pride Shockwave 2004*|
|2005 Middleweight||Mauricio Rua||Ricardo Arona||Pride Final Conflict 2005|
|2005 Welterweight||Dan Henderson||Murilo Bustamante||Pride Shockwave 2005*|
|2005 Lightweight||Takanori Gomi||Hayato Sakurai||Pride Shockwave 2005*|
|2006 Openweight||Mirko Filipović||Josh Barnett||Pride Final Conflict Absolute|
|2006 Welterweight||Kazuo Misaki||Denis Kang||Pride Bushido 13|
The following fighters have won a tournament or championship titles or were high contenders in Pride. Some have competed in different weight classes.