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Japanese media coverage of PRIDE’s death

By Zach Arnold | October 4, 2007

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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.

Topics: Japan, MMA, Media, PRIDE, UFC, Zach Arnold | 14 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

14 Responses to “Japanese media coverage of PRIDE’s death”

  1. Jonathan says:

    I would have stolen a cell phone and a computer if I was getting fired like that. I would have been like “Hell no! I aint’ goin out like this!”

  2. Jeff Comstock says:

    I’m amazed that Pride Worldwide maintained a staff of 20 for as long as they did. That’s a large payroll for a company that produced no revenue.

    Of course I’m not blaming the staffers for this unfortunate fact, but this debacle was only a matter of time.

    I feel bad for the employees and especially the Japanese fans. They have been really screwed.

    I feel that they must have been trying to get something done by way of a television deal, but were unable to complete a deal to keep a promotion viable. With the high cost of operating in the U.K. perhaps they did the best thing by cutting their losses and making away with all of the talent they did.

    Whether due to cultural barriers, corruption or ineptitude things fell apart.
    I’m likely to chalk it up to a combination of all of that and more.

    I’m sure brighter days are ahead for Japanese MMA fans. Someone will pick up the dropped ball and run with it.

  3. white ninja says:

    nothing strange about how everybody was fired

    this is standard practice for a shutdown. you are given your notice and told to piss off and leave company property behind. you get your 1 month’s pay (or whatever you’re entitled to) and you look for a new job

    there is no bright light on the horizon for japanese mma – k1’s failing ratings show the product is stale and has lost the interest of the fickle japanese public and all the blame can be placed squarely at the feet of the alleged yakuza front man Sakakibara and his supposedly illegal business dealings

  4. PizzaChef says:

    Oh! Delicious!

  5. fitch says:

    Does this come as any real surprise?

    When all the top talent immediately started to show up in the UFC you knew it was over. The Pride name was forever tainted by the scandal. A name change after the new management may have saved it but I don’t think the Fertitta’s understand business in Japan welll enough to have pulled it off.

  6. Rohan says:

    Zach – see my post on the other PRIDE death thread.

    Did any of the Japan media mention why UFC had to the opportunity to take PRIDE over (they were a corrupt company), why PRIDE was effectively a dead organisation which UFC had very little shot of resurecting no matter what they (no TV company would touch them), and what UFC owned offices were being used for since the take over.

    On a serious point Zach – what would you do having got into Zuffa’s position? You’ve got a money losing dead ship with no chance of turning it round – and your assets are being used to help run a company you don’t own. Oh and as you pointed out (i think) in the other post your employees are likely mates with the mafia and can have you roughed up if you show your face.

  7. Zach Arnold says:

    They should have never bought the PRIDE assets or done business with DSE, in my opinion. They would saved themselves a world of financial and emotional trouble, plus not put their own business image at risk in Japan.

  8. Lynchman says:

    We knew, months ago, that Pride was done. Dana has repeatedly said they were unable to secure a television deal and that without a deal, they would not run any Pride shows.

    I think the Colts comparison is absurd.

  9. Rohan says:

    But having got in their position (having bought) what would you do? It was a foolish effort but on a practical level the 20 employees would have been fired long before if Zuffa hadn’t stepped in. Therefore for them to be crapped over now is quite amusing.

  10. Jeff says:

    American perspective: How dumb were those 20 employees? For crying out loud! For months, Zuffa did nothing in Japan, nor did it look like they were ever going to. Those employees had months to find new jobs, but just kept muddling along, doing nothing (literally) but waiting for something to come from Pollack. They had an easy gig (doing nothing), and the gravy train came to an end.

    Japanese perspective: Once again, the American behemoth takes over an institution created by Japanese, and then casts the Japanese aside when they have what they want. Furthermore, despite the loyalty of their employees, those poor souls are just abruptly turned out into the street, wondering how they are going to recover their lives. Lousy Americans!

  11. Michaelthebox says:

    Well, looks like Jeff just covered everything that needs be said. Thanks a lot Jeff.

  12. shatterproof says:

    if the japanese fans didn’t want Pride to die they should have called up SkyPerfecTV and demanded a new contract there. Fans were jumpping off the Pride wagon for months before Sky decided not to work with Pride ever again. Sucks for Japan, but it remains great for north americans who finnaly get to see some of that talent pool in our own back yards!

  13. The Gaijin says:

    Actually PRIDE was coming off winning the NYE ratings war against K-1 with one of their best NYE rating ever, iirc.

    So as for fans jumping off the bandwagon months before – I have no clue what you’re talking about…

  14. zenki says:

    The Gaijin
    2nd that….

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