By Zach Arnold | October 4, 2007
By Zach Arnold
Mauro Ranallo on Fight Network Radio yesterday (audio here) compared the mass firings of PRIDE staffers and the abrupt closing of the PRIDE office similarly to what happened with the Baltimore Colts when they moved to Indianapolis via Mayflower trucks in the middle of a snowy night in 1984.
Well, the reaction from the Japanese press about the end of PRIDE was similar to how the Baltimore fans reacted to seeing those Mayflower trucks drive off to Indianapolis.
All the major Japanese sports newspapers covered the story in a negative light towards Zuffa LLC and UFC, but we’ll highlight some of the more detailed newspaper articles.
The most comprehensive media report came from God Bless the Ring, an online site that now works with Yahoo Japan for content sharing. On the sidewalk next to the office complex that featured the PRIDE office on the third floor, the showcase window for PRIDE was cleared out. It had originally contained figures of Wanderlei Silva and Nobuhiko Takada. All of the office decorations had been removed.
According to a PRIDE staffer, Jamie Pollack instructed the 20 Japanese employees on the 3rd via e-mail to show up at 10 AM JST to the office on the 4th for a conference call session. On the conference call, Pollack reportedly told the employees that they were all fired. He instructed the employees to turn over their cell phones and personal computers. Furthermore, the employees were told to leave the office immediately and to not come back. The employee firings would be effective on the date of November 4th, with American lawyers processing the termination documents. Pollack said that no individual questions would be answered at the conference call, but that if employees had individual questions they wanted to ask him that they should do so by contacting him via mail/e-mail.
GBR and representatives from three sports newspapers arrived by the office complex at 3 PM. They noted the complete disbelief and shock of the office being abruptly closed. Furthermore, GBR noted that the button of the office complex elevator was disabled so that nobody could go to the third floor (the PRIDE office).
Adding to the poor timing of the PRIDE office being closed and the employees being fired is that a week from now, it will be the 10th anniversary of PRIDE in Japan. A staffer was anonymously quoted by GBR as stating that the office employees were preparing a project proposal and had been waiting for Pollack’s support, but nothing ever materialized.
Nikkan Sports newspaper added more details to the story, including details about the Pollack conference call. The newspaper described the conference call as a ‘one-sided’ message with Pollack ordering the employees to evacuate the PRIDE office within 30 minutes (including turning in cell phones and computers). The conference call started at 10 AM and lasted 10 minutes. Sankei Sports reported that employees had 20 minutes to return what was asked for and to get out of the office for good.
Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the employee contracts were set to expire next May and that all of the PRIDE Japanese fighter contracts had become ‘blank paper’ (meaning they are free agents). Interestingly, the paper noted that UFC had interest in running an event in Japan next May.
Daily Sports quoted Hidehiko Yoshida as being surprised with how everything turned out and how abrupt the office closure was. A person affiliated with Takanori Gomi stated that Gomi would not issue a current public comment on the situation. K-1 and UFC are looked at the main options available for the Japanese PRIDE fighters.