Although UFC president Dana White (Pictured) has never competed in a professional mixed martial arts fight, he tends to be one of the most popular kids on campus when the Octagon comes rolling through town. Between his blunt answers at press conferences to his free ticket tweets leading up to the shows, White receives as warm of a welcoming as the company’s more popular athletes.
However, that might not be the case this weekend when the UFC returns to Japan for the first time since December of 2000. Just like video killed the radio star, some Japanese finger White as the man responsible for killing their beloved Pride Fighting Championships.
“[Fans might boo me after they] see my face on the screen? Oh, I see. You’re saying I’m not very popular over here,” White said in response to a local reporter who suggested the UFC’s brash boss might not get the favorable reception he’s grown accustomed to. “Listen, I can take some boos. I can handle it. I’m pretty thick skinned.
“We didn’t kill Pride. I’ve said this many times, Pride is the only other organization that I’ve ever respected. Pride was an organization here in Japan that did huge sell-out shows. There were tons of Pride fans in the United States. There are a lot of big stars, not just out of Japan, but worldwide that came from Pride. It’s the only other organization that I have ever respected or given credit to.”
No offense, WEC and Strikeforce…
Zuffa, LLC, the parent of the UFC and Strikeforce, acquired Pride FC in March 2007. Following the monumental purchase, it was believed the two organizations would continue to operate as two separate entities. However, Zuffa decided to erase Pride FC from the MMA landscape just seven months later.
For those arriving late to the party, during its heyday, Pride FC was the UFC long before it became THE UFC. Their “Pride: Shockwave” card in 2002 still holds the largest live MMA attendance record when over 91,000 fans packed Tokyo National Stadium.
When asked if the UFC would consider promoting a future Pride-themed card in Japan just for good ol’ time’s sake – featuring past stars like Dan Henderson, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Fedor Emelianenko – White quickly shot the prospects down while taking a quick jab at an old adversary.
“Not Fedor,” White mumbled under his breath. “I don’t think so. The Pride thing didn’t work out. We gave it a shot, it didn’t work out.
“The gentleman that asked earlier that I was the one who killed Pride, it’s completely not true … The UFC will be the events that we bring here. The great history of Pride, there’s no more Pride events.”
“UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson” takes place this Sunday in The Land of the Rising Sun (Saturday in North America).