Thursday, March 29, 2007


By Fernando Avila

Every generation has experienced a revolution, and perhaps for our times of invasions and wars, it's appropriate that the world of MMA is exploding, at least from a journalistic point of view. It all began after the first and only cooperation ever, between DSE and the K-1 organization.

The name of the show was Dynamite! And it featured perhaps the most interesting and talented MMA fighter in the history of the game vs. a 'Beast' of an athlete named Bob Sapp. This was the turning of modern MMA's first decade, and after Royce Gracie, it would be Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira who would rule immaculate and confront the biggest foes ever placed before a champion. What turned out to be the biggest and best MMA show in history did not reap the profits expected by the men backstage and eventually a world of speculation, suspense, and sinister maneuvers followed the low returns of this highly profitable show.

A man suddenly hung himself, another disappeared, and meanwhile back in the U.S.A. and organization named Zuffa LLC had successfully thrived to the point of profiting in the millions in the MMA world years after the previous owner of the U.F.C. Semaphore Entertainment Group was told he would be turned down by the Las Vegas athletic commission. He was attempting to have the sport of MMA sanctioned in various states after having received the blessing form Larry Hazzard and the New Jersey Athletic Commission. Frank Fertitta just happened to be sitting on the board of the Nevada Athletic Commission at the time. Less than seven years later, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta who purchased the UFC in 2000, now own the two most powerful entities in the world of professional mixed martial arts.

It took place at Roppongi Hills Arena and approximately 3,000 fans came by to see the press conference. It was announced that PRIDE 34 would be the last PRIDE show promoted by Dream Stage Entertainment. As we speculated before, Kamikaze is a rather telling tale to the tape. After PRIDE 34 all of the rights including business rights and copy right of PRIDE will belong to a new company 100% owned by Lorenzo Fertitta called 'PRIDE FC WORLD WIDE,' but this new company's address is going to be the same address as the current DSE office. Except a current head of DSE Nobuyuki Sakakibara, all of the employees will leave DSE and become employees of this new company 'PRIDE FC WORLD WIDE.' The president of this new company 'PRIDE FC WORLD WIDE' is yet to be determined but there is a rumor that a man who used to be with Tokai television would take over the helm.

This press conference took place on March 27th starting at 6:00 PM. Sakakibara, Lorenzo, Dana White, and Nobuhiko Takada were on the stage, and the introduction video said, 'When two major leagues intersect, the MMA version of the World Cup or Super Bowl will become a reality.' Then they announced Jeff Monson vs. Kazuyuki Fujita in the upcoming PRIDE 34 as the beginning of an all-out war between PRIDE and UFC. Monson said, 'I am a fan of PRIDE but as a member of the UFC, I will prove the strength of the UFC.' They also mentioned names like Wanderlei Silva and Don Frye as possible fighters for the PRIDE 34 'KAMIKAZE' show.

In the end, Hidehiko Yoshida and Takanori Gomi and about thirty other PRIDE fighters took the stage, posed for the media with the new owner Lorenzo Fertitta. Sakakibara told the media that after PRIDE 34, he is leaving the fight sport industry and looking to get involved in the other professional sports but at this point, there is no immediate future plan. In regards to Ed Fishman, the former head of PRIDE USA, Sakakibara said, 'He has never come up with an official offer to buy PRIDE. I wanted him to consider subcontracting our business operations but he doesn't give everything to the job. He couldn't produce the result therefore I asked him to resign and then we were sued.' Sakakibara also revealed that Showtime, the TV Cable station that controls Elite XC, approached DSE with a 'Reverse Merger' proposal but Sakakibara said, 'Elite is not up to this league. With Elite, we couldn't have produced the kind of a heat we are seeing in today's press conference.'

Obviously its a move PRIDE desperately needed make to keep their hopes alive of making a comeback to Japan's terrestrial broadcasting. DSE is labeled as 'mobbed-up' so a new operating company was necessary. A clean organization that would have no problem with the public compliance issue. And of course, a person in charge, Sakakibara, had to leave the management to 'take a responsibility' of creating bad image among the public. Does this mean PRIDE is now Yakuza-free and ready to get back into the Japan's national television? And what would happen once this UFC vs. PRIDE match-ups are over?

So what the hell does this all mean? Not to mention the fact that K-1 as well as Zuffa have an eye on Cage Rage. When I had mentioned 'World Domination' in previous articles it was just a joke man! But it seems that Pinky and the Brothers have indeed embarked in search of this Holy Grail of MMA. Well the answer is simple and I am repeating myself. As new MMA organizations emerge world wide, it is the ones that are willing to pay that will feature the best MMA for fans worldwide. For Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta to acquire every MMA venue they crave, will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the salary of the majority of MMA fighters.

The best fighters in the world fight for the organization, which will pay them the most, and to assume that the best will remain in PRIDE is assuming too much. First of all the contracts in PRIDE and UFC are from two different universes, to expect most fighters to agree to these terms is optimistic. Also, Zuffa is know for giving these 'loosely termed three fight contracts' where if a fighter loses he might not get the next fight depending on a certain characters whim.

As I read all over the internet regarding the impact of this acquisition, it seems that many view it as a positive point in the evolution of the sport, as suddenly we will see 'dream matches' which will no longer be dream matches as such, but a reality of the new emperors whim. Just like global politics, when there is one sphere of influence, which is too large and controls too much of the power it is a negative thing. The question now is who will be the organization or organizations to counter punch and counterbalance Zuffa's new stranglehold on MMA?

When a company gives the workers a greater share of the profits, that company will thrive. In this case, who will give the fighters their worth, as current PRIDE heavyweight champ Fedor Emelianenko is about to face and American foe in bodogFIGHT, and there is much rumor of other talent also being tempted by cushy contracts and amicable hosts.

Is the world of MMA is still up for grabs despite of the illusion, which this one organization wishes to create? Will stiff competition drive the market on MMA fighters in to frenzy or will they be consumed by low wages on a high exposure stage? It is a rumored that Jeff Monson has only a one-fight contract with PRIDE and he is also rumored to be fighting in 'another' show later this year. What does it mean? Is he going to fight in K-1 / Elite or Cage Rae or bodogFIGHT? If that is the case, what is the real meaning of this UFC vs. PRIDE showdown?


No comments: