Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White spoke in great detail during a pre-UFC 70 teleconference about his plans for the Pride Fighting Championships organization, which was recently purchased by UFC principal owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta.
The most striking aspect of White’s answers to reporters’ questions was the way in which he spoke of Pride as a company essentially owned-and-operated by the UFC. Any pretense from the initial buy-out announcement that White would not have anything to do with Pride (or would not be running Pride) was long gone, as was any pretense that Pride and the new company Pride FC Worldwide would not be controlled by Zuffa.
White set the tone for this early on in the conference call when he talked about how busy he is: “I’m working on that [the first round of the Pride Lightweight Grand Prix]. There’s only so much I can do at once. We own the UFC, Pride, and WEC, so it’s a lot of work.”
White also said, “I’m working on a major TV deal for Pride in the U.S. and in Japan.” When asked about the Pride USA office, he said that all of the Pride employees will be keeping their jobs but added, “I’m going to be the one going out and signing deals for Pride.”
White’s comments about Pride stand in stark contrast to the statements made by DSE executives when the announcement was made that UFC co-owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta were buying Pride. At the time, DSE president Nobuyuki Sakakibara said, “Lorenzo believes that Pride should maintain its luster, and he will make sure that Pride. is here to stay. I trust and believe in Lorenzo… but please don’t misunderstand the situation. This is not a speech about the UFC purchasing Pride. The UFC will forever stay as a competitor to Pride, because the UFC is operated by Zuffa Entertainment and Mr. Dana White.”
White also contradicted statements made just in the past week by DSE executives about Pride’s upcoming Lightweight Grand Prix. When asked if it’s true that there will be one or more UFC fighters in the Pride Lightweight Grand Prix, White said that it is absolutely not true.
At the press conference last week in Japan where it was announced that the first round of Pride’s Lightweight Grand Prix would not be taking place on May 20th as originally scheduled, DSE president Sakakibara said, “I’m sure that the UFC will send us one of the very best lightweight fighters of the UFC. That’s what Lorenzo promised me. I’m sure that Lorenzo will prove his commitment.”
Also, while DSE announced in Japan this week that the first round of the Grand Prix would take place on July 16th in Nagoya, Japan, White said, “We don’t have a date for the Lightweight Grand Prix yet.” White said that it’s still being determined when they’ll be ready to run their first Pride event.
When a reporter asked if it’s true that Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will be fighting in the UFC just as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will be, White said that Shogun will stay in Pride and added, “All of the guys who are in Pride will stay in Pride.” White said that there will be no Pride fighters in the UFC before the big UFC vs. Pride “Super Bowl” event, which he said will be taking place this year.
When asked about the recent statements from Shogun’s camp that Shogun has a contract for two fights in Pride and two fights in the UFC, White said, “I don’t know where that’s coming from, but it’s not true.”
When a reporter asked about Wanderlei Silva’s status as a free agent, White said that Silva is not a free agent and that he has four fights remaining on his Pride contract.
When asked about the status of Pride Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko, who recently stated that he is not under contract to Pride, White said that Fedor is indeed under contract to Pride, but added, “It’s a non-exclusive contract, and I don’t do non-exclusive contracts.”
White said that he is trying to sign Fedor to an exclusive contract and that if Fedor were to sign a similar non-exclusive contract with any other MMA promotion in the meantime, “We would absolutely slap an injunction on that.” An “injunction” in this case would be a temporary restraining order seeking to legally prohibit Fedor from fighting in any other MMA promotion.
White was asked about the problem of so many Pride fighters, such as Fedor, being under non-exclusive contracts. White responded, “Yeah, it’s a problem. I’m working on it. It’s a big problem, but believe me, I’ll fix it.”
Several of the reporters did not seem to be aware of White’s previous statements that the UFC and Pride would have the same rules. When asked about the differences between the UFC’s rules and Pride’s rules in the future, White said, “It’ll all be the same.”
One of the reporters on the teleconference said that he feels the color commentary on the April 8th Pride event was “horrendous” due to the “constant shilling for Pride” and asked if White will be making changes to ensure that the Pride broadcasts will be “more professional” in the future. White responded, “Absolutely,” and said that he “agrees 100 percent” with what the reporter said. When asked specifically if color commentator Frank Trigg will continue to be part of the Pride announcing team, White said, “No, he won’t. We’re looking for some new announcers.”