Monday, March 26, 2007

What the Japanese Media is Saying about PRIDE's Sale

By Jordan Breen

Despite UFC president Dana White stating late last week that no concrete deal was in place for UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta to purchase the assets of PRIDE Fighting Championships, Japanese sports media have mirrored the reports that emerged from North American MMA media outlets over the last two weeks.

Daily sports paper Yomiuri Sports Hochi has corroborated reports that the assets of PRIDE will be sold to the Ferittas, and that the official announcement will be made at Dream Stage Entertainment's March 27's press conference at Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo, where they state UFC representatives will be present. Sports Hochi has also reported that April 8's PRIDE card at the Saitama Super Arena will be the last under DSE-direction, and that following the event, DSE will be liquidated as a company.

Meanwhile, another daily sports paper, Nikkan Sports, has lended credence to the prevailing idea that if a full acquisition of PRIDE's assets is to take place that the Fertittas plan to run PRIDE as a separate entity. Nikkan has reported that the plan for the future of the UFC and PRIDE is coexistance, with PRIDE continuing to operate in Japan with the bulk of its current roster.

The paper likened the situation to that currently utilized by the WWE's pro-wrestling product, with two "brands" — RAW and Smackdown — being ran as separate entities. Similar to the WWE's brand structure, Nikkan says that annual cards pitting the two rosters against once another are a strong possibility, and would most likely be held in the United States.

The most intriguing of the reports leading up the press conference has been Fight! Miruhon, which has stated that contrary to other reports the Fertittas have not purchased the assets of PRIDE entirely, but rather have entered into a new company in which they hold a minority stake. At least two other Japanese firms will allegedly have stake in the new company, including Nagoya-based Tokai Television Broadcasting Co., Ltd., a subsidary of the Fuji Television Network, Inc. who terminated their network television deal with PRIDE and Dream Stage Entertainment this past June, after six years of partnership.

Miruhon states that the president of the alleged new company will likely be an executive from Tokai TV in an effort to restore a working relationship with Fuji Television. It is worth noting that current PRIDE boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara, prior to his role in Dream Stage Enterainment, was a television producer for Tokai TV.

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