When it came to serious MMA, few can say Pride FC disappointed their fans. During its heyday the company had such tremendous talent under their banner, many of whom continue to fight today in the UFC and elsewhere, including Dan Henderson, Jens Pulver, Mirko Cro Cop, and countless others. Then, there were those fighters and fights that remain highlight reel moments to this date, like Gilbert Yvel's headkick KO over Gary Goodridge, or when Kazushi Sakuraba broke Renzo Gracie's arm (both of which happened at Pride FC 10).
One of the people lucky enough to be able to see many of these fights happen up close and personal was one-half of the original English commentary team, Stephen Quadros. Alongside Bas Rutten, Mr. Quadros had the pleasure of calling so many of these huge wars and finishes that we will fondly remember as fans. I had a chance to speak with Stephen recently about a variety of topics, talking for over an hour - half of which was about his recollection of stories from Pride.
Some of what we discussed was not in the above recording, as I wanted to keep it a secret just for you lucky Bloody Elbow readers! I had to put Stephen on the spot and ask him what his top three favorite fights of all time were in the company. While it was difficult for Mr. Quadros to pick just three fights, he set up a criteria to help him decide and ultimately chose this triple threat of action.
"There's so many great ones, but I have to prioritize them in terms of excitement and what bearing they had on the world scene, and if there was any historical significance, and I would have to say the Royce Gracie vs. Sakuraba first fight from the Pride Grand Prix 2000 was probably the greatest fight because of the whole set-up leading into it. Sak was the wise cracking pro wrestler who partied, Royce Gracie was the serious martial artist, and he demanded, and got, unlimited time limit in the tournament for his fights, and none of the other fighters got that stipulation in their contract, only Royce. So, what Sakuraba did at that press conference was wear a diaper when they interviewed him. They asked him, why are you wearing a diaper?", and he said, "Well, I am training in case I need to go to the bathroom."
"He was wise-cracking and nobody had really done that to Royce Gracie, so there was a lot of significance there because you had the real world of martial arts going against the fantasy world of pro wrestling, and there was a lot of hype and the fight lived up to it."
"The next one would be Fedor Emelianenko coming into Pride and his march up the ladder and finally challenging the man who was the greatest fighter across the board - voted #1 by all the journalists, beat Semmy Schilt, beat Mark Coleman, beat everybody he fought, submitted everyone - no one survived against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira."
"But he faced Fedor, and to me, it was like Ali vs. Frazier, it was that big! It was a true heavyweight championship fight, first one that you had two guys that were champions coming after each other, Fedor did the impossible, jumped right into the guard of Nog, a place that nobody else had been able to survive against the great Brazilian, and just beat the living hell out of him with punches. He redefined the term "ground and pound", he was hitting angles, different side movements with punches, I think that that was the second greatest fight."
"I think there are a number of other great contenders that come before that one, but you have to basically go with Sakuraba, any one of his fights are interchangeable, because he always brought it, whether he fought Wanderlei Silva, whether he fought Mirko Cro Cop, but i think that one of the most exciting fights was when Quinton Jackson came over and fought one of his first fights in Pride and it was against Sakuraba. They made him cut an insane amount of weight, he could barely walk at the weigh-ins, he had to get carried out, and then he came out there in the match and threw Sakuraba around the ring. It looked like one of those things where somebody gets into a gorilla cage at the zoo by accident, and the gorilla starts tossing them around the cage. it was really a frightening experience because I thought maybe Sakuraba was going to get seriously injured."
With as many great fights as there were in Pride FC, I am sure that this is a list that is ever-changing, especially for someone who had the luck to see them live in Japan. Even if you disagree on the ordering of the list or the fights in it, you can not deny that these fights were epic, like all of the best matches in the promotion.
What are your top three Pride FC fights of all time?