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UFC vs. PRIDE 2

By Zach Arnold | July 9, 2006

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By Zach Arnold

My previous post on UFC vs. PRIDE can be found here.

Reflecting upon the latest news developments with Vanderlei Silva apparently signing a 3-fight deal with UFC, one has to wonder what exactly is going to happen with both UFC & PRIDE in the future. There are a few possibilities on the horizon that could indicate something similar to what WWE did to WCW several years ago.

With PRIDE financially on the ropes, the idea of UFC absorbing their top names and weakening PRIDE’s power structure is a sneaky play. That’s smart business. Conventionally, the idea of using Silva as a “PRIDE guy” even though he is under UFC contract would make sense if UFC wanted to do an interpromotional war (similar to what New Japan did with UWF-International in 1995). In the case of WWE using WCW talent after the acquisition of assets, WWE had a chance to do some real big business with WCW, a nationally recognized name, in an interpromotional setting. Instead, WWE sabotaged the WCW brand and it’s a mistake that still haunts Vince McMahon to this day. In the case of the UWF-International vs. New Japan feud, Nobuhiko Takada had strong name value and was a nationally recognized figure in Japan. The three UWF-International vs. New Japan themed Tokyo Dome shows drew over $20 million USD. Ironically, what drove UWF-International to cooperate with New Japan was financial trouble. After a political campaign by Nobuhiko Takada (along with other UWF-International political issues), the company needed cash and ended up agreeing to work with New Japan — only to see New Japan matchmaker Riki Choshu bury the company and laugh all the way to the bank). The problem for UFC even considering an “invasion” angle with PRIDE (using “PRIDE guys” under UFC contract) is that PRIDE isn’t recognized nationally in America. In order for such an invasion angle to work, UFC will have to spend capital building up the PRIDE name over several months, if not a couple of years.

However, there are several factors that could screw up a “PRIDE invasion” in UFC. What if PRIDE collapses in Japan? What if police arrest certain individuals? What if Chuck Liddell loses to Renato Babalu in August? Unlike pro-wrestling, you can’t script every move in a shoot environment. The concept of doing a “PRIDE invasion” angle in UFC sounds great. PRIDE, having some of the most talented gaijin fighters in the world (including a certain former UFC Heavyweight champion who could be marketed as a major star in America), finds itself in an interesting position. Unable to pay the top dollar any more for gaijin talent, PRIDE finds itself seeing one of their top stars (Silva) go to UFC. The question is whether or not PRIDE has calculated that they can maintain some control over how Vanderlei Silva is booked without having to pay his salary. It’s a risky, perhaps desparate move. By the same token, PRIDE knows that Dana White is a huge mark for Vanderlei Silva and realizes that they may have plenty to gain by letting Dana pushing their brand in the United States. PRIDE has put itself into a very interesting position, one that nobody could have imagined a couple of years ago. Will Emelianenko Fedor be the next fighter to sign a UFC contract? If that happens, UFC will have both the PRIDE Heavyweight and Middleweight aces under their sleeve. But at what price?

I remain perplexed as to why UFC would want to go into business with PRIDE at this point, even if it means absorbing PRIDE’s top stars. Why not wait for PRIDE to collapse and then cherry-pick who you want to fight for your company? Why push a company (PRIDE) that has recently been scandal-tainted? There is a risk that the scandal could taint UFC if things progress badly in Japan.

Besides all of the factors listed above, the biggest risk that Dana White faces is that the “PRIDE guys” will likely beat the native UFC fighters. However, unlike in pro-wrestling, you can’t book your native fighters to make come backs and go over the heels in the storybook ending. It’s a shoot environment, and UFC may find itself in a situation where they look second-rate by having the “PRIDE guys” beat all their fighters — with the real possibility that UFC won’t be able to build up any native fighters who can stop and beat the outsiders.

As a fan, it’s certainly an exciting time period of watch. Everyone who is a hardcore fan wants to see Silva vs. Liddell. With that stated, what will the casual fan think about that match? I can only imagine how many casual fans will start cracking jokes on how Chuck Liddell is fighting the Brazilian clone of Kurt Angle. Speaking of Angle, he’s reportedly (according to various wrestling web sites) to be on the sidelines for 30 days, needing a break. The WWE does have a wellness (drug testing) program and it’s garnered some headlines this past week.

One important question that does need to be asked revolves around drug testing. The Nevada State Athletic Commission performs drug testing for all fighters involved in title fights. Given that there is no drug testing of fighters in Japan, how will this situation play out when the “PRIDE guys” start working in California or Nevada? Will all the UFC vs. PRIDE fights be non-title bouts, or will UFC be confident that the fighters will pass the tests without fail?

The more and more I think about what is happening with UFC, the more intrigued I am about what direction this company is heading. Investing time and money in pushing the PRIDE brand seems to be a high-risk, low-reward proposition for UFC. For PRIDE, it seems to signal an all-in-or-nothing strategy that will garner big headlines in Japan, but do little or nothing for their domestic box office business. Without Fuji TV’s support, PRIDE is facing some very tough decisions. You never know who your friends and enemies are from one day to the next.

Topics: All Topics, MMA, Media, PRIDE, Pro-Wrestling, UFC, Zach Arnold | 17 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

17 Responses to “UFC vs. PRIDE 2”

  1. PizzaChef says:

    I got to admit, the whole “signal” possibility of the UFC using Silva as a signal to get PRIDE fighters to jump ship is the one that’s appealing to me the most.

    It’s either that or UFC is doing this as some sort of “PR” to get him to join the UFC if PRIDE collapses.

    I like to point out two things.

    1. One of the guys on one of the “Underground” forums mentioned that Silva said in a interview that the pay in Japan is not as good as it used to be. Unfortunatley he didn’t name a source.

    2. Silva mentions that “he likes to fight the best in the world.” It came off to me like if he was trying to put over UFC despite wearing a PRIDE shirt.

  2. Ivan Trembow says:

    For what it’s worth, White did not say, “We have Wanderlei Silva under a three-fight contract.” The way that it was worded in the FoxSports.com thing was a little bit misleading, although unintentionally. I heard the actual audio, and this is how that part went:

    Unknown Reporter: Is he [Silva] signed for a certain number of fights in the UFC?

    White: “Yeah, three [fights]. We’re probably going to have him for three.”

    The FoxSports.com left out the fact that White said “probably” and also made it seem like White said that Silva is under UFC contract, when in fact what he said was, “We’re probably going to have him for three,” which doesn’t really specify one way or the other.

  3. Tomer says:

    Also, even if the main event is non-title, the fighters get drug tested. So they’d have to book Silva/Liddell as a non-title semi-main fight if they really wanted to circumvent any drug testing.

  4. Roadblock says:

    The plan as of a year ago was to do a Silva/Liddell series. First fight in UFC, 2nd in Pride then a third if it was 1-1.

    Also it sounds as if Vanderlai is being offered the Title Fight Contract. Everyone who fights for a UFC belt signs a deal that says if they win it is automatically a 3-fight contract at that price scale and you have to keep fighting w/ UFC after that or be stripped of the belt. Maybe Dana was being honest and realizing Silva is going to demolish Chuck.

  5. Mr1000Cent says:

    But didn’t UFC have a deal with K-1 when they signed Royce Gracie? Now UFC is working with Pride, which is a rival promotion. So does that mean the Gracie signing was a one time deal? Does this mean K-1 could have some legal action against UFC for working with a rival promotion? Or does this mean UFC has burned it’s bridge with K-1?

  6. Shaolin says:

    Also zach ask yourself who is using who, invasion? Nobody knows who pride is, last night I had freinds asking me about it, ufc is getting nothing out of this deal, accept the ability to use a great pride fighter, and build up the pride name in america.

    I just dont see how this is not obvious to you.

  7. Zach Arnold says:

    [Also zach ask yourself who is using who, invasion? Nobody knows who pride is, last night I had freinds asking me about it, ufc is getting nothing out of this deal, accept the ability to use a great pride fighter, and build up the pride name in america.

    I just dont see how this is not obvious to you.]

    There are too many unanswered questions right now.

    To start with, we don’t know what the politics are going to be between the two companies for the PRIDE October show. Will UFC have involvement? Is UFC going to try to sabotage it or will they have a hand in promoting it?

    Second, Dana allowed Vanderlei into the ring with the PRIDE shirt. Remember, this is the same company that told Matt Lindland that he was violating policy by wearing his shirts with the gambling company sponsor. Obviously this means that Dana, on some level, is supporting the idea of building up the PRIDE name against the UFC champion.

    Third, I would say that UFC would (and that’s only a judgment call on my part) be getting something out of this, which is the money from the PPVs and gates. Will they bother splitting the PPV revenue with PRIDE for Silva? Are they paying DSE a booking fee?

    Again, there’s a lot of confusion to this deal. Dana White said that in a few days he would clarify the situation. Let’s wait until he makes a statement before we can determine who’s benefitting from this deal and how.

  8. xianzhong says:

    it’s especially weird to have UFC let Silva promote Pride like that after the last UFC where they did not mention at all of Royces fight record in Pride and they didn’t even show or mention Sakuraba, who was among the celebrities watching the event live in the crowds. They have acted for a long time as if Pride didn’t even exist…even when UFC got Jens Pulver back, he didn’t even mention the name Pride…it’s always in Japan or oversees…the only reasonable explaination is that both Pride and UFC are really pissed off/scared of the WFA for taking Rampage and other top and well known fighters and are hoping to take them out of commission.

  9. FightingMajor says:

    The one thing that would seem obvious to me is, UFC must be holding the much better cards. There is no way that Pride is in any kind of position of strength in this deal. Just look at the reaction Silva got by the live audience. It was a silence, as if to say who the heck is this guy. Pride fighters, while highly talented, are virtual unknowns to mainstrem N.A. fans. Why would UFC bring in and give Pride fighters recognition? UFC must have something good cooking, or this entire deal could be a big mistake for them.

    As for Liddell-Silva, I bet this fight opens a pickem. I would certainly play Liddell at any kind of near even odds or as the dog. I think he is more likely to catch up to Silva with a bomb first and he may have the better chin. Liddell is also a better wrestler and could fall back to this, if needed (although I don’t think he would).

  10. [...] The one promising thing that did come out of the show was the promise of Liddell vs Silva if Chuck can get through Babalu next. Amazing dream match stuff it is but it brings up more questions than answers about Silva’s status with the UFC. FightOpinion has the best article on it I have seen. [...]

  11. Armen says:

    Lidell has a chance with Silva sure, but Lidell took a nasty beating from Rampage and Rampage took a nasty beating from Silva. If these fights were closer, I would say the results meant little to nothing. But there was no question who was dominant in both fights. Given those results, Silva has got to be the favorite plain and simple.

    I think the trouble that PRIDE is having is being exaggerated and a bit overstated. They don’t have the TV deal like they used to but that’s like the UFC before the Spike deal. And who is to say they won’t have one again sometime soon. They are selling 45 ,000 plus tickets for each show in Japan, plus the PPV. Plus, they are moving in to the N.A. market where there is plenty of room to grow for them.

    It really remains to be seen though what kind of deal this is and if it is a one-time cross-promotion or something more extensive. It would be interesting to see lots of cross-promotion fights in the future but I have trouble seeing how the stalwarts at the UFC would take that kind of “hit” to their brand.

  12. MMA T-shirts says:

    So excited that I literally can’t even explain.

  13. John says:

    I think this is great for the fans but in my opinion Pride has the better fighters overall. The UFC is raising up toung good American talent but the fight quality is not as good. Did you see whatSilva did to Leben? A 49 second destruction and Leben is supposed to be one of the young guys the UFC is building around. This could end up biting the UFC in the ass. Do es anyone think that Tim Silvia would stand a chance against Fedor? Hell no they shouldn’t even make that match.

  14. fitch says:

    Zach I fail to see how the UFC is “pushing” Pride in any way other than the unavoidable fact that Wand fights for them. If anything it looked to me like they did everything they could to continue the ban of the P word. White officially introduced him as “one of the most popular fighters in Japan”. It would be pretty tough for Dana to negotiate with Pride in good faith with terms like “oh by the way, when Wand comes out he can’t wear anything with the Pride on it”.

    I’m guessing the story here is Pride is subcontracting Wand to UFC to help build their brand in the USA on someone else’s dime and at the same time defend against K-1 from buying Silva.

    What does the UFC get out of it? 1)A marketable legitimate non repeat contender for Liddell. Let’s be honest, saving the upset, at this point in time does anyone believe Chuck wouldn’t beat Babalu and Ortiz in similar dominating fashion? 2)A legitimate MMA mega fight to further the UFC brand name. 3)Possibly what could be considered the first MMA title unification fight. 4)If Chuck wins, bragging rights at being the world’s top organization. Though Pride is stacked at LHW, take out the top guy and you make all the rest look grade B.

  15. J.D. says:

    If UFC/Zuffa is planning on having 10 or 11 PPVs next year, as Sherdog reports, isn’t dipping into the Pride talent pool a no brainer? Looking at UFCs current talent pool, with all those PPVs plus all the TUFs finales, there certainly isn’t enough marketable match-ups to cover the whole year. UFC may not need Pride, but they DO need talent.

    BTW, didn’t Tito already “kill the axe-murderer”???!!! haha!

  16. [...] Let’s touch upon the claim made in the F4W newsletter regarding interpromotional scenarios with Japanese companies. As I touched upon in a previous posting, 1995 saw the biggest interpromotional feud of all-time in Japan as New Japan feuded against Nobuhiko Takada (ironically, the man who is the face of PRIDE right now) & UWF-International. The end result of that interpromotional war? New Japan made over $20 million USD on three Tokyo Dome shows, UWF-International got buried, and only Takada got protected somewhat. [...]

  17. LiddellFan says:

    Lidell has a chance with Silva sure, but Lidell took a nasty beating from Rampage and Rampage took a nasty beating from Silva. -Armen Says

    That means nothing, example: Forrest Griffins only KO loss is to Jeremy Horn by a kick to the head, yet Jeremy got tapped out in seconds by Elvis Sinosic who Forrest KO’ed in the first round. Any 2 fighters you put together will get different results reguardless of what hapened against someone else.
    Also…Given those results, Silva has got to be the favorite plain and simple. -Armen Says

    Under UFC Contract the champ is always the favorite and there cant be a pickem odds situation, even though I myself think Chuck has the worst of the matchup statisticaly, he’s still ,undoubtedly, the favorite.

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