News is official: Fertitta purchases Pride
by Dave Meltzer
Pride president Nobuyuki Sakakibara announced at a press conference this evening (very early morning U.S. time) at the Tokyo Roppongi Hills that Dream Stage Entertainment has sold the assets of the Pride Fighting Championships to Lorenzo Fertitta-led ownership group of the UFC.
The new company, called Pride Fighting Championships Worldwide, would operate as a separate company from UFC. Sakakibara publicly announced he was leaving the organization. No new organization president was announced nor were much in the way of details given about the future.
Dana White, Fertitta and Sakakibara followed hours later with a conference call from Japan for the U.S. media to answer questions on the ownership change.
The battle plan will be to run separate shows and maintain separate staffs. The attempt will be to make the promotions competitive rivals, even though they would no longer be business rivals. No specifics were given, but they only seemed to indicate minimal mixing of talent. There would be a Pride roster of fighters and a UFC roster. There would be matches of champions in each promotion, although when and how often had not been determined. The indication was the mixing of talent would be limited to occasional champion vs. champion matches, perhaps once per year in each weight class, where neither specific title would be at stake.
Pride would continue holding matches in the ring and be, as Fertitta called it, a "Japanese-centric" organization while UFC would be an "American-centric" organization. The only significant change talked about would be worldwide unified rules would be put in place, which would be the same rules UFC fights under, with the elimination of knees to the head on a downed fighter, stomps and soccer kicks in Pride, but adding elbows. White said Pride would keep its judging criteria for fights in Japan, but obviously, when running in the U.S., would use the commission-dictated ten-point-must system. Pride will also have weight classes change for worldwide consistency, and will crown champions at 155, 170, 185, 205 and heavyweight. Currently Pride has champions at 161 (Takanori Gomi), 183 (Dan Henderson), 205 (Henderson) and heavyweight (Fedor Emelianenko).
No new television deal, which Pride desperately needs in both Japan and the U.S. to be viable long-term, were announced. White did mention hoping to get back on the Fuji Network. Pride will run shows in the U.S., although no date for a next show was announced. UFC is looking at running shows in Japan.
Fertitta and White indicated Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko is under contract to the new organization.
Dream Stage Entertainment's final event will be on 4/8 from the Saitama Super Arena. The new organization plans on keeping the current schedule commitment of Pride events.