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The Pride Fighting Championship, based in Japan and headed by Dream Stage Entertainment, is the leading NHB, Mixed-Martial Arts competition in the world. Pride is somewhat similar in rules and concept to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, with two key differences:

  • Pride events take place in a slightly larger version of a boxing ring. This gives fights a somewhat more open feel. Howerver, one drawback of the ring is the fact that while grabbing the ropes for leverage is supposed to be illegal, in reality this rule is broken in about half of all fights, unnoticed by the referee.
  • In Pride, one is allowed to kick a person who has their back on the ground. This can lead to somewhat humorous situations where the man on the ground is twirling around on his butt to stay lined up to defend himself against a standing opponent, doing a leg lift at the same time. This "man on ground vs. standing man" position became popular when Kazushi Sakuraba did a cartwheel to fly over the raised feet of the ground opponent, stomping him in the head.

While UFC may not be extraordinarily popular in the United States, Pride is HUGE in Japan. Appearence fees have exceeded one million yen(mid to high 5-figures US) for the top fighters. Along with the rule changes, the biggest difference between Pride and the UFC is the top-notch production which adds to the overall spectacle of the event. A typical Pride show features pro-wrestling-like entrances for the combatants, packed 20 thousand seat arenas, and a nationwide pay-per-view audience on Sky PerfecTV.

Unquestionably, the biggest star in Pride is the afformentioned Kazushi Sakuraba. Known for his flashy hair and personality(he once gave his opponent a literal spanking on the rear during a fight), this former pro-wrestler has gained great love and admiration from the Japanese. Sakuraba has become known as the "Gracie Hunter", due to his undefeated record against various members of the Gracie family. Perhaps his most memorable match came with Royce Gracie, where Pride bent its rules in favor of Royce due to demands from the Gracies. Despite this, Sakuraba still managed to destroy Royce, on one occasion even toying with him by undoing his belt in the middle of the fight. Sakuraba's major nemesis has been Vanderlei Silva. Silva's intensity has led him to consecutive wins against Sakuraba, with Kazushi severely injuring his shoulder while attempting to strike him in their last fight. Other top stars include devastating striker Igor Vovchanchyn, 2001 Pride Grand Prix winner Mark Coleman, and pro-wrestler Kazuyuki Fujita.

Pride is currently becoming more popular in the United States, with pay-per-view coverage and a video series. However, the promoters believe that in order for Pride to truly get over in the U.S., major American stars will need to be shipped in. Hence, they have tried to recruit Mike Tyson, held a main event involving Ken Shamrock, and are currently rumored to be looking into paying Goldberg to step in the ring. Regardless of the level of American success, Pride has established itself as by far the most financially successful MMA/NHB organization in the world, and is the true leader in the sport.

Links:

  • Official English website:www.pridefc.com
  • General Mixed-Martial arts news:www.sherdog.com
  • Pride is Japanese, so there really aren't a great deal of English websites

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