Wednesday, April 4, 2007


By Rami Genauer

Compared to all the ridiculous titles that fight organizations have used to label their events (“Oktoberfist,” “Gunfather,” need I go on?) one has to give credit to whomever chose the moniker picked for Pride 34. There is no more appropriate name than “Kamikaze” for the last show before Dream Stage Entertainment goes willingly to its death.

With that death comes a host of questions, as a Fertitta-controlled entity called Pride FC Worldwide Holdings (PFC for short) takes over the reins in running Pride Fighting Championship. It’s too early to tell how the organization will be run, but there are dozens of choices that need to be made in determining the future of the promotion. As a fan of Pride as it was and with an eye to what it should be, I humbly submit these pleas to the powers that be.


Zuffa came up with a winning strategy for gaining fans via the television: Use a reality show to get your foot in the door (The Ultimate Fighter), broadcast live fights to hook people on your product (Ultimate Fight Night), show older fights to educate, build fan bandwagons and whet the appetite in between pay-per-views (UFC Unleashed), and eventually you’ll get to a point where fans will gladly watch your programming, even if it doesn’t include any fights at all (Inside the UFC, All Access, etc.).

In formulating their own TV strategy, Pride decided to skip steps one and two and go directly to step three, with its recorded fight show on Fox Sports Net. Obviously, this hasn’t worked too well for them. It must be mighty tempting for the Fertittas to try the same formula again; find a channel desperate for young, male eyeballs (G4, Versus, MTV2, FX are all usual suspects) and do a Pride reality show to start the process all over again. Indeed, before Pride’s sale, there were rumblings of DSE considering trying their hand at the reality show format.

This would be a really bad idea. In the first case, ratings for The Ultimate Fighter have declined to the point where new episodes draw about the same ratings as repeats of Unleashed. Fan interest in the reality format has waned and foisting another iteration of this tired genre onto an unfamiliar public is a poor way to build brand value. Remember, Pride’s brand needs to be established essentially from scratch. It is not the hardcore fans that need convincing, it’s the people that still refer to MMA as “ultimate fighting.” Pride must be built to the point where the casual fan base sees it as an equal to the UFC; the Fertittas did not pay a rumored $65 million just to get another minor player like the WEC.

Producing another reality show would likely not have the same effect that The Ultimate Fighter initially did, as it is far from novel. In addition, the limitations of the reality genre would necessarily restrain the show from promoting Pride’s true strength: International talent. The “throw a bunch of people in a house” format only works when everyone speaks the same language. Fans would be unlikely to form an emotional connection with the foreign fighters, as charisma, humor and personality are the hardest things to glean via subtitle. It’s no coincidence that the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film almost always goes to a depressing drama. Pride needs a significant presence on free television, but will need to arrive in a format that’s a little more creative this time around.

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