March 30, 2007

by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com

After much speculation, the burning question has been finally answered




– noun

1. great
importance or consequence: affairs of magnitude.

2. greatness of size or amount.



After much
speculation, the face of mixed martial arts has changed forever. The sale of
Pride Fighting Championships signified the largest acquisition in MMA history.
Reactions spanned the spectrum of emotions as the monumental news set in. Some
were saddened. Many were ecstatic. Others are still in disbelief. Gone are
the wearisome, yet often tumultuous UFC vs. Pride debates. The obstruction to
the seemingly unattainable match-ups has been lifted.


At Tuesday’s
press conference in Japan, sadness could be sensed from Dream Stage Entertainment
CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara. Say what you will about Sakakibara, his passion for
the organization was unmistakable. Unfortunately, 2006 was a damaging year for
DSE and the company continued to hurt financially into the New Year.


Enter the
Fertitta brothers.


moguls Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta are intelligent businessmen. Along with Dana
White, they brought the UFC out of the depths and turned it into a mainstream
juggernaut. Although the sale of Pride must have been a difficult decision for
Sakakibara, he chose to put the company into the capable hands of the Fertittas.


I’d be
lying if I said part of me wasn’t sad. However, I remain optimistic with the
notion that Pride’s new owners will keep the organization intact. I’m
confident that they have the expertise and resources to turn Pride around and
possibly secure another television contract in Japan.


management may have been the financial savior for the ailing organization but the
uncertainty of the future peaks some of our curiosity. We can be thankful that
Pride will sustain its existence. However, for some, graciousness has been met
with an equivocal attitude. Loyal fans savored their fondest Pride moments as
if a sinking ship were left to meet its final resting place. To them, Pride
Fighting Championships was a revered work of art, the perfect blend of
competitiveness and showmanship. Utilizing that successful formula, Pride entertained
fans with its trademark production value.


So why are
some fans concerned? Ask Dana White.


is a sport and we’re going to follow the unified rules that were established in
New Jersey and then in Nevada. As far as I’m concerned, if an organization
doesn’t follow these rules, it’s not MMA.”
– Dana White


The unified
rules have been the talk of the town. Heated debates within the MMA community have
been a daily occurrence. UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner
recently confirmed that future events after Pride 34 will utilize the unified


Foot stomps,
soccer kicks, and knees to the head of a downed opponent will no longer be allowed.

Round times will
change to 3 x 5-minute rounds and 5 x 5-minute rounds for championship fights
(no more 10-minute first rounds).


The use of
colored penalty cards will be discontinued.

Elbows will be

Shoes, gis, and
pants will not be allowed (sorry Aoki).



While foot
stomps and soccer kicks aren’t for everyone, it was an aspect of Pride Fighting
Championships that set it apart from other organizations. The sudden change in
allowable strikes may be a bit hard for diehard fans to swallow.


Pride 33? It was a great event. Some fans went so far as to say it was the
best in Pride’s history. It was also held in the U.S. and sanctioned under the
unified rules. I’m not going to lie; I favor Pride’s rules/regulations over
the current set established by the athletic commissions in the U.S. However, I
do agree that unified rules are necessary for the sport to legitimize itself
worldwide. Other organizations in Japan such as K-1 Hero’s, Professional
Shooto, and Cage Force currently utilize a similar set of rules (sans elbows
with the exception of the latter). Tatsuya Kawajiri with elbows? Intriguing…


The unified
rules will always be met with mixed feelings. However, the integration of the
rules in Pride is imminent so arguing about them is pointless.


Aside from
the new rules, other forthcoming adjustments will prove to be positive and
welcome changes.


Pride’s old
weight classes were a bit broad in range, which made it difficult for some
fighters. With better-defined weight divisions, fighters will be able to
compete closer to their natural weight limit. The recent emphasis on lighter
weight classes in the WEC has been well accepted and perhaps the new structure
in Pride could eventually pave the way for featherweight and bantamweight
divisions of their own.


Tired of
inane non-title fights? Same here. I expect non-title fights to be eliminated
under the new management.


Due to past
political and financial reasons, many dreamed about fights were unattainable.
Fans salivated at the prospect of seeing Wanderlei Silva fight Chuck Liddell in
the UFC only to be let down. With the roadblock lifted, many cross-promotion super
fights will soon come to fruition. Finally, we can forgot about brand names
and enjoy MMA as a sport.


With an
acquisition of this magnitude, a level of uncertainty remains. Will there be a
loss in production value? How will the fights be affected under unified rules?
Will the amount of broadcasted Pay-Per-View fights be lessened? With so many
unanswered questions, do fans have a cause for concern? Maybe. However, I’m
confident that those concerns will be addressed in due time.


Dream Stage
Entertainment’s exit signified the end of an era. After months of negotiations,
a new owner has emerged. Pride Fighting Championships will forge ahead and we
should be grateful. The fighters will keep fighting. The fans will keep
watching. MMA will continue to grow. A new era will begin.