by Jeff Cain
Jens “Little Evil” Pulver isn’t the only one who’s competing on Pride Bushido’s September 25th card chasing a chance at history. Murilo Bustamante has the same opportunity as Pulver to become the first fighter in Mixed Martial Arts history to win the championship in the two biggest organizations in MMA, the UFC and Pride.
Murilo Bustamante won the UFC middleweight championship at UFC 35: Throwdown by defeating Dave Menne in impressive fashion just forty-four seconds in round two by TKO ref stoppage. Interestingly that same event would be Jens Pulver’s last in the UFC. Murilo defended his UFC championship one time back in May of 2002 at UFC 37: High Impact where he defeated Matt Lindland by Guillotine Choke early in round three. The UFC would go nearly three years without a middleweight champion before Evan Tanner won the vacant title with his win over David Terrell at UFC 51: Super Saturday in February of this year.
Pulver obtained his UFC title at UFC 30: Battle on the Boardwalk by beating Caol Uno making Pulver the first, and only ever UFC lightweight champion. Jens defended his title twice. He won a unanimous decision against Dennis Hallman at UFC 33: Victory in Vegas, and defeated BJ Penn by majority decision at UFC 35: Throwdown. There hasn’t been a UFC lightweight champion since. BJ Penn and Caol Uno would fight for the vacant title at UFC 41: Onslaught, but the bout ended in a draw with no champion crowned.
Both Pulver and Bustamante left the UFC without losing their titles to another fighter in the octagon. Both have made their way to Japan, and both have the same shot at MMA history. The winners of the two tournaments will be named the official Pride champions in those weight classes. If they both advance to the finals of their division tournaments, the one that gets to stake claim to being the first fighter to win division championships in the UFC and Pride could come down to the fight order.
Many bring up Mark Coleman as having already done it, but that’s not true. Mark Coleman became the UFC heavyweight champion at UFC 12: Judgment Day when he defeated future UFC Hall of Famer Dan “The Beast” Severn by a side choke in just under three minutes. He was a two time UFC heavyweight tournament champion, but didn’t become the UFC heavyweight champion until he defeated Severn. Coleman also won the first Pride heavyweight grand prix in 2000, but never held the Pride heavyweight title. Coleman would win his next Pride bout against Allen Goes. He then lost to “Minotauro” Nogueira. Nogueira would be crowned the first Pride heavyweight champion when he defeated Heath Herring by unanimous decision at Pride 17: Championship Chaos.
Pulver and Bustamante have a unique and rare opportunity. Of course there’s a lot that has to happen for either of them to actually pull it off, but this is MMA, anything can happen. They first have to get past the first two rounds on September 25th, and that’s no small feat to say the least. Do they both have a date with destiny, or is it just a side story that will come unraveled on the 25th? Time will tell.