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Introduction to Pride Fighting and Its Top Champions

By Robert Rousseau,
The Ultimate Fighting Championship ( UFC ) now has a real contender to its crown in America. The name? PRIDE Fighting Championships ( PRIDE ). The reasons?

First, PRIDE probably has more top level mixed martial artists fighting within its organization than Dana White's crew does ( though the UFC is certainly gaining on them at a pretty rapid rate ). Second, PRIDE has now come to America.

Their first event on United States soil took place on October 21, 2006 in Las Vegas. PRIDE 32: The Real Deal was a huge success, finally introducing Americans to the spectacle / sporting event that the Japanese have come to love since 1997.

Still, Americans only got to witness what has become of PRIDE, not where it started.

The History of PRIDE Fighting Championships

PRIDE was first formulated by Kakutougi Revolution Spirits, which eventually became Dream Stage Entertainment ( DSE ). In short, the PRIDE organization seems to have been started with the idea of getting one fight together.

A match between Rickson Gracie and Japanese pro wrestler Nobuhiko Takada.

Rickson Gracie was widely considered to be the greatest Gracie fighter at that time ( he continues to be to this day ). Takada was a widely known native celebrity. And once they inked this one; well, let's just say that's history.

PRIDE held its inaugural event at the Tokyo Dome on October 11, 1997 with these two headlining the card. Gracie won via armbar; and the event as a whole was a major success, prompting PRIDE's continuation.

In 2000 the organization put on its first Grand Prix style tournament. In short, this was a two day open weight elimination style tournament designed to find the world's greatest fighter. Many Americans do not seem to realize that three time UFC Champion Royce Gracie entered this tournament and was defeated by Kazushi Sakuraba ( the first defeat of Royce Gracie's MMA career ).

In the end, Mark Coleman won this inaugural PRIDE Grand Prix tournament.

Today the organization continues to put on such tournaments, mostly by weight class ( a welterweight Grand Prix tournament, for example ). However, on May 5, 2006 they started another open weight tournament that Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic eventually won when the last round took place on September 10, 2006.

The Grand Prix tournaments have become a trademark of the organization. In short, you'd be hard pressed to find a better MMA event when they come around.

PRIDE's Financial Troubles

On June 5, 2006 Fuji Network ( Japanese based ) announced that they were immediately terminating their television contract with DSE due to breach of contract. That move left PRIDE with only one way of getting to the Japanese public.

Sky PerfecTV, a pay per view carrier.

First, the termination of this contract may have had something to do with dark rumors that have been swirling for some time now about DSE. Simply put, many believe that DSE is a front for a yakuza group ( Japanese Mafia ). However, this is only speculation.

Here's what's not speculation. The loss of the Fuji Network contract left PRIDE in some serious financial hardship. This is certainly one of the main reasons why they've begun to maneuver their way into the America consciousness ( in the hopes of offsetting some of their financial losses at home ).

Perhaps an even bigger problem for the organization, however, is the fact that their television problems have apparently made it difficult for them to gather the money or fighter confidence needed to sign big name free agents. For example, Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic's recent signing by the UFC is a huge blow to PRIDE.

On a positive note, recently it has been reported that DSE has come to an agreement on a television deal with Orion Cinema Network to air PRIDE events in South Korea. Beyond this, Vince McMahon and the WWE have even held talks regarding "potential opportunities."

Thus, PRIDE is beginning to look as if they might be able to climb their way out of problems, even if the earlier reported cooperation / affiliation between the UFC and PRIDE is clearly off for now.

The PRIDE Weight Classes

You'll notice right off the bat that the term 'middleweight' means something different in PRIDE than it does in the UFC. Here are the PRIDE weight class breakdowns.

Heavyweight - 205 lbs. and greater

Middleweight - 183-204 lbs.

Welterweight - 160-182 lbs.

Lightweight - less than 160 lbs.

The PRIDE Rules

PRIDE rules are different than those from the UFC in several ways. First, of course, is the timing factor.

When PRIDE matches take place on Japanese soil, non-title bouts run two rounds ( the first is a ten minute round followed by a five minute round ). Title fights run three rounds ( add in a final five minute round at the end ).

In addition, on Japanese soil PRIDE competitors are allowed to knee and kick opponents on the ground whereas UFC fighters are not. However, UFC fighters are able to elbow downed opponents where PRIDE fighters are not.

Still, it appears that some of these rule differences are beginning to evaporate. In PRIDE: The Real Deal, the organization changed many of their rules in order to hold their event legally on American soil due to native restrictions ( for example, kicking to a downed opponent is not allowed in the United States ).

PRIDE Champions

This is a list that is ever changing. However, here is a breakdown of the current PRIDE champions you should know about.

Russian PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko is widely regarded as the greatest mixed martial arts fighter in the world. In short, he seems inhumanly strong and always comes to fight in shape. Further, Fedor demonstrates excellent takedowns, takedown defense, and technical striking skills ( look what he did to Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic in their August 8, 2005 encounter ).

Still, his real deal is ground and pound. If you have him in your guard and think you're safe, you're wrong. Dead wrong.

Brazilian PRIDE Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva is widely regarded as one of the greatest mixed martial arts fighters of all time. In short, he demonstrates good technical striking skills, hits very hard, and is known for using his legs, knees, and fists to inflict brutal damage upon his opponents.

His nickname - The Axe Murderer - probably says all you need to know.

American PRIDE Welterweight Champion Dan Henderson is an Olympic caliber wrestler. Hence, he has great takedowns, takedown defense, and ground control skills. In addition, he also has good technical striking skills and loads of power in his right hand. Henderson has something to prove, though, since losing to Kazuo Misaki at PRIDE: Bushido 12 in the welterweight Grand Prix tournament ( PRIDE fighters don't lose their belts if they are defeated while competing in a Grand Prix tournament ).

Japanese PRIDE Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi is the best lightweight striker in the game. He has unbelievably fast reflexes and hits like a truck. Further, he has good takedown defense skills and has demonstrated the ability to submit fighters once they are put in a bad position from strikes.

So that's it for now. Look for updates to this article as they come about. And remember, the PRIDE Fighting Championships are a great venue. Check them out; you won't regret it!

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