While the North American MMA market was all but extinct, one promotion in the land of the rising sun was setting the world on fire - and that company was PRIDE.
PRIDE was, in Japan, what the UFC is today on a global scale. Selling out big arenas like the Tokyo dome, fighters being household names, huge endorsements deals and all the things that fighters enjoy today.
That's only half the story however, because behind the scenes the most insane nonsense was taking place and nobody knew it until post-mortum when Zuffa bought the all by dead promotion. Without further delay, lets dive right into the wild and wacky world of PRIDE.
1. Yakuza Gang Involvement
The shit storm and pretty much everything on this list steams back to the very beginning, with PRIDE's well known involvement with the Yazuka clan. Never heard of these fun loving folks? Yeah, google it, because I'm not going to go into detail with facing the consequences of a hit put on me and my family, but you may have seen a gentleman sitting in the front row wearing a "Young at heart" hat during every PRIDE event.
Yeah, he was involved. His name is Hiromichi Momose, and the so called PRIDE Producer was on one side of an internal war for the soul of PRIDE.
Fixing fights, money laundering, potentially offing key members of the promotion, funding payroll to bring in the world's best talent (including Fedor) and other shady dealings caught up to the promotion by 2005 with the writing on the wall after losing a major TV deal that the Japanese titanic would sink.
Oh yeah, speaking of shady dealings...
2. The Former President "hung" himself
How about Naoto Morishita hanging in a fucking closet?
After being the main architect in the success of PRIDE, the president was found June 2003 hanging in a hotel room.
It was originally ruled a suicide, but after stories came out about his affairs and potential yakuza ties, police are still investigating the death as it appears somebody had it out for Naoto.
As far as drug testing is concerned, it was pretty much non existant in the Japanese MMA market, with bulked up fighters pissing hot oil and soccer kicking the shit out of each other the norm in every PRIDE event. Fuck, even Mark Kerr was shooting up roids in his own documentary, and nobody in the promotion popped him.
4. Fights being thrown or staged
Mark Coleman was given an incentive and easier route in the 2000 Grand Prix for throwing a fight to Nobuhiko Takada, Takada had a staged fight with Alexander Otsuka, Rampage was offered to throw fights before and other fuckery was going down in the match making where fighters the promotion were looking to push to the moon were fed flat out tomato cans (IE: Bob Sapp and the little guys he fought up until meeting Big Nog).
It'll be hard to go back and do some research what other fights were on a movie script, but it was most certainly happening.
5. WWE almost bought the company
When the writing was on the wall that PRIDE wasnt going to make it, PRIDE came to america as a infomercial/presentation to potential american buyers. One of which was WWE.
Shane McMahon was big into the idea, however Vince Mcmahon (who bonked on the idea of buying the UFC), stopped the purchased from happening.
We all make mistakes, right?
5.The UFC Bait and Switch
UFC use to send talent to PRIDE all the fucking time, top talents like Chuck Liddell and Ricco Rodriguez competing at Total Elimination 2003 for example, and when it was time for PRIDE to return the favor they never did.
They even had Wanderlai Silva and others appear multiple times in the UFC cage to promote the crossover boots, only for it to end up being just to promote the PRIDE brand to those unfamiliar with the UFC alternative. (IE: Silva wanting to fuck/fight Chuck.)
UFC gobbled up PRIDE, we finally got Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlai Silva, however we missed out on plenty of dream fights that will never happen due to PRIDE's unwillingness to play ball.
6. K-1/PRIDE Dynamite
It will go down in history as one of the biggest MMA shows of all time, with 91,000+ jam packed in Tokyo National Stadium for K-1/PRIDE Dynamite 2002. Yes, 2002, a time when nobody was watching Mixed Martial Arts. Headlined by Sakuraba vs. Cro Cop (and Bob Sapp throwing around Big Nog) it will go down as one of the greatest MMA events in history.
7. Bob Sapp and other freak show fighters
Bob Sapp was the poster boy for all of the freak show fighters/fights that would take place at a PRIDE Event, but what followed were american/japanese pro wrestlers, Butterbean, and others with no business being in a MMA ring with match-ups that would never take place in a UFC octagon. Give them props though, it did produce more than entertaining television.
8. Hilarious Advertisements featuring PRIDE Fighters
I don't know even how to explain this, it needs to be seen to believe.
Did we miss anything? Probably. Leave a comment below.