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How Fedor Killed PRIDE

Finally the truth can be told. Ok, so my headline's a little misleading, but this tidbit from Dave Meltzer's excellent article on the Japanese New Year's MMA tradition is very intriguing:

After the televised success in 2001, the 2002 Inoki Bom Ba Ye on New Year's Eve was headlined by Sapp against Yoshihiro Takayama. The two finished first and second a few weeks earlier for Pro Wrestler of the Year in Japan, and were put on as the headline event on television. The closest thing to a U.S. equivalent would be if Hulk Hogan and The Rock were put in the ring and fought (for real) on a show that was presented by UFC and featured stars from HBO boxing all on the same night. Sapp-Takayama did a 24.5 rating, with Sapp winning quickly via armbar. From that point on, the biggest fighting show of the year became traditional for New Year's Eve.

By 2003, the success of the Sapp-Takayama show was such that three different networks wanted the show. Pride and K-1 split, and Inoki went his own way. The three shows drew 25,000 to 35,000 fans each. It turned out to be the most important night in Japanese MMA history, and not because Sapp and Akebono, for the three minutes of their fight, beat the concert in the ratings.

It was because Inoki's group lured Emelianenko, Pride's heavyweight champion, away from Pride to appear on the Inoki show against pro wrestler Yuji Nagata in a quick mismatch. But years later, when allegations came out in a Japanese magazine that Yakuza members connected with Pride had threatened the promoter of the Inoki show for using Fedor, the allegations led to the Fuji Network dropping Pride, and led to the promotion dying, being sold to UFC, and vanishing.

Here's my wish for 2008 -- that MMA can rehabilitate its image in Japan and that at least one promotion will get network coverage of their New Year's Eve 2009 event.

Also don't miss Meltzer's list of the top 10 most watched MMA matches in Japan.

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