This Day in MMA History: March 27

By Sherdog.com Staff Mar 27, 2009
Shockwaves reverberated for months.

Casino magnates Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, having revitalized the Ultimate Fighting Championship, landed on Japanese soil on March 27, 2007, and announced Zuffa LLC’s purchase of Pride Fighting Championships from Dream Stage Entertainment at Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo. Some $70 million reportedly changed hands.

“We have been talking to Pride for probably about 11 months,” said Lorenzo Fertitta, according to an Associated Press report. “It’s been a long, drawn-out process, but we finally were able to put the two brands together.”

The deal between the two mixed martial arts superpowers was supposed to usher in an unprecedented era of matchmaking. Talk of mega-bouts featuring standouts from the rival promotions spread like wildfire. The possibilities seemed endless. Fertitta even spoke of turning MMA into a global sport on par with baseball and soccer.

“This is really going to change the face of MMA -- literally creating a sport that could be as big around the world as soccer,” he said. “I liken it somewhat to when the [NFL] and [AFL] came together to create the NFL [of today].”

Stephen Martinez/Sherdog.com

Dana White spoke at
the press conference.
Something went wrong during their walk down the aisle, however. The plan to allow Pride to exist autonomously soon unraveled amid contract disputes and a Japanese market that was notoriously unkind to foreign promoters. Zuffa was not welcome.

Pride cornerstones like Fedor Emelianenko and Takanori Gomi became free agents and, to this day, have never appeared inside the Octagon. Others, like Hayato Sakurai, Shinya Aoki and Tatsuya Kawajiri elected to stay close to home. To worsen matters for UFC President Dana White and Company, the international stars the UFC did manage to lure away -- most notably 2006 Pride Open Weight grand prix winner Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic -- fell far short of expectations. Even Brazilian legend Wanderlei Silva struggled with the transition, as he dropped two of his first three fights inside the UFC.

The proverbial writing was on the wall, and some six months after the purchase was announced, Jamie Pollack -- the Zuffa LLC lawyer overseeing operations at the Pride office -- informed remaining Pride employees that they had been terminated. During the Oct. 4 conference call, Pollack reportedly instructed staffers to immediately turn over their personal computers and cell phones and exit the building. According to an anonymous employee, Pollack informed those on the call that he would not answer any personal questions from staff members and directed them to his e-mail if they had any issues they wished to address.

The entire conference call lasted 10 minutes, and with that, Pride was no more.

This article was updated at 1:03 p.m. EST to correct information on Wanderlei Silva's UFC record.
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