March 27, 2007 was a year that changed everything in the MMA world. During a press conference in Tokyo, Japan, Lorenzo Fertitta announced that the UFC had purchased Pride Fighting Championships. With today serving as the five year anniversary of the announcement, we know that we never got some of the bigger ideas talked about in the purchase like the two promotions continuing to operate independently with a "Super Bowl" style event.
With it appearing to be a more difficult task than they expected, the UFC quickly shifted their talk to the UFC "not being wanted" in Japan, resulting in the way we saw the situation play out.
Here are some quotes from the press conference where the announcement was held (via ESPN):
"This is really going to change the face of MMA," Lorenzo Fertitta said. "Literally creating a sport that could be as big around the world as soccer. I liken it somewhat to when the NFC and AFC came together to create the NFL."
The deal allows the Fertitta brothers to broker the biggest MMA fights possible in the near future, increasing their influence in this sports entertainment business.
"We will be able to literally put on the fights that everyone wants to see," Lorenzo Fertitta said. "It will allow us to put on some of the biggest fights ever."
There was a single DSE promoted PRIDE event held following the sale and Zach Arnold of Fight Opinion discussed that show (as well as what happened in the wake of the sale) over at Fight Opinion:
What did happen was a rather pathetic ending for PRIDE. Their final show was in April of ‘07 at Saitama Super Arena and Nobuyuki Sakakibara, the front man for PRIDE, used the occasion and the show as his final goodbye. In addition to having graphics all over the arena with his face on them, he had the fighters on the card come out and talk about what a great man he was and how sad they were to see PRIDE die. It was a pathetic, but fitting spectacle for a man of such character.
Soon after the sale took place, Zuffa hired Spectrum Gaming to run the background check on DSE for ‘due diligence.' Yes, they did ‘due diligence' after the transaction instead of before it. I wonder why. This resulted in a legal battle between the two parties over the asset sale agreement. The initial report was that $70M USD was paid but most insiders believe the final total was in the $10-13M USD range.
While we may have never received the mega-crossover Super Bowl events that we all expected as MMA fans, Pride was on life support prior to the purchase anyway. The sport has grown so much over the past five years that wishing Pride was still around seems pointless.
It was a fantastic and wild ride while it lasted, but it had to end sometime. And the beginning of that end was five years ago today.