by Taro Kotani, translation by Korey Howard
Pride Fighting Championships started on Oct. 11, 1997, with the legendary fight of Nobuhiko Takada versus Rickson Gracie. With their 10th anniversary just around the corner, the venerable Japanese mixed martial arts promotion has come to an end. On Oct. 4, the Pride FC World Wide (Pride WW) office closed without fanfare and all employees were dismissed.

Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, primary owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, purchased Pride FC from Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE) in March with intentions of revitalizing the organization, which then was in serious financial peril due to losing their television contract in Japan.

Initial plans by Lorenzo Fertitta and UFC president Dana White were to continue operations in Japan and bring top fighters from both Pride and the UFC together in a sort of “Super Bowl of mixed martial arts.”

“This is about putting together the dream fights that me and you as fans have always wanted to see,” said Fertitta at a press conference in March of last year, announcing the purchase.

Plans of having a Super Bowl of mixed martial arts came to an end Thursday night in Japan as the Pride WW office was shut down. Employees who previously worked for DSE and were rehired by Pride WW after the Fertittas’ purchase were notified of their dismissal in a conference call by Pride WW president Jamie Pollack, according to Japanese MMA website God Bless the Ring.

Reports by SportsNavi indicated that employees have not been able to re-enter their former workplace and have been unable to use company-owned mobile phones, PCs, etc.

The former head of Public Relations for DSE, Keiichi Sasahara, made a vehement public statement in SportsNavi about the closure:

“It makes me very angry that the U.S. management would do this in a way that betrays the people who have supported us. We believed in Lorenzo (Fertitta’s) message of restarting Pride. We’ve been working toward that end and that’s how we’ve answered fans who have asked what’s going to happen. To have that all end all of a sudden in this way is incredibly frustrating.”

White, who is also a part owner of the UFC, said on numerous occasions that Pride shows in Japan would not be held until a television contract was signed, but as the months drew on, no television contracts materialized.

Addressing the media in August, White stated, “I’ve pulled everything out of the trick box that I can and I can’t get a TV deal over there with Pride. I don’t think they want us there.

“Pride is a very powerful brand and we want to keep it alive, but I’ll tell you what, the brand is very tainted, not only over there, but (also in the U.S.).”

Kamipro Hand is reporting that Pollack is expected to make a statement regarding the current state of Pride WW.