Since the press conference announcing the sale of the Pride FC to UFC owners in May and Pride holding its final show under its former company Dream Stage Entertainment, Pride has been inactive to present date. The lack of any information from the new owners has left the Internet-driven "MMA media" to speculate on its future. Not surprisingly, the "MMA media," which relishes in demonizing the UFC owners and its president, Dana White in particular, paint a bleak picture and doubt their intensions. Most predict that Pride will be dissolved and cease to exist despite prior claims from White that Pride would continue to be run as a separate organization.
The doom and gloom is perhaps warranted as there have been bumps in the road. Legal wrangling have already delayed UFC owners from taking possession of the company later than expected and there's a lawsuit in-progress from former Pride USA president, Ed Fishman. If anything would bury Pride permanently, these reasons would be a good as any.
Yet what surprises me about the "MMA media" criticism over the viability and validity of Pride being run by UFC owners when you consider the other recently acquired promotion, WEC. The WEC, which is promoted under the company Zuffa, has already achieved some interesting results:
- They feature a new featherweight class that isn't in the UFC.
- They have their own respective champions per weight-class.
- They are featured separately on the Versus cable network with their own line-up of shows.
I see no reason why Pride could not operate under a similar model. This could work for the following reasons:
- Pride could focus developing and promoting homegrown fighters in Japan. Pride's inability to produce a new generation of Japanese superstars was a significant factor that contributed to its decline.
- While many hardcore nationalistic Japanese fans may scoff at the idea of an American-owned Pride, there is still value to the brand among more casual fans in its native homeland. This is not unlike French videogame publisher, Infogrames, who bought and now operates under the well-known name of Atari. Either way, it's unquestionable that a show under the Pride banner would have a greater chance of success in Japan than a show under the UFC banner, no matter who owns it. If the UFC owners are serious about breaking into the Japanese market, why would they squander their biggest asset in penetrating that market?
- The idea of a MMA super bowl could potentially do big business. You can't do MMA super bowl unless you have multiple platforms for fighters to showcase their skills and develop a following. There are only so many fights that can be promoted in the UFC in a given year. Having Pride in addition to the WEC makes the concept of a MMA super bowl much more viable. The UFC are so close to making this concept a reality, why abandon ship now?
The odds may not look good for a new Pride, but without any new information, let's not jump to conclusions and ignore what is plainly in front of us. The idea of UFC owners running Pride is not ridiculous and not without rationale when you consider the above points.