by Al Yu and Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
In a recent press release, Dream Stage Entertainment announced that the highly anticipated Pride Lightweight Grand Prix has been postponed. The first round of the 16-man tournament was originally scheduled to take place on May 20th at the Saitama Super Arena.
The reason for the delay was attributed to insufficient time. The ownership of Pride officially changes over on May 1st, and it appears that the Fertitta brothers felt it was necessary to postpone the event in order to properly promote and prepare for the show.
On March 27th, UFC principal owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta acquired the assets of Pride Fighting Championships, signifying the largest organization purchase in mixed martial arts history. The Fertittas created a new company called Pride FC Worldwide that would continue to operate the organization in Japan.
At the post-fight press conference of the final DSE-run Pride event on April 8, Pride Executive Director Nobuhiko Takada announced the following participants for the Lightweight Grand Prix: Takanori Gomi, Hayato Sakurai, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Shinya Aoki, Mitsuhiro Ishida, Gilbert Melendez, Joachim Hansen, Marcus Aurelio, and Luis Azeraedo. Satoru Kitaoka also earned a spot in the Grand Prix by defeating Fabricio Monteiro at the last DEEP event.
Outgoing Pride President Nobuyuki Sakikabara, at the same press conference, indicated that the UFC would also be sending fighters to the Grand Prix. “I’m sure that the UFC will send us one of the very best lightweight fighters of the UFC,” Sakikibara said. “That’s what Lorenzo promised me. I’m sure that Lorenzo will prove his commitment.”
With the purchase of Pride by the Fertittas, there has been much discussion about instilling the Unified Rules – which are widely accepted in America and the rules under which the Ultimate Fighting Championship operates – to govern Pride events. The Fertittas and UFC president Dana White have both stated that future Pride events will have the same rules as the UFC.
The question of which rules to use in the “new” Pride and the whole process of transferring ownership of the company are likely contributing factors in the delay of the Grand Prix.
More specific details of the Grand Prix should become available in the coming weeks.