During a televised statement, UFC heavyweight Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic — 2006 PRIDE FC Open Weight Grand Prix Champion — discussed returning to the Japanase mixed martial arts promotion for another go at Fedor Emelianenko — the top fighter in the world in the division.
What seemed like heresy and a pipe dream just a few days and weeks ago, is now all of a sudden a very real possibility.
Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta — alongside UFC President Dana White — announced the purchase of PRIDE FC from Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE) at a press conference at Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo, Japan, earlier today, according to Sherdog.com.
As part of the blockbuster deal, current PRIDE FC President and CEO Nobuyuki Sakaibara confirmed speculation that he will step down after PRIDE 34 on April 8. According to an Associated Press report in the Boston Herald, the final sale price was less than -- and relatively cheap -- $70 million.
Here's a snip from Lorenzo Fertitta:
"We have been talking to Pride for probably about 11 months. It's been a long, drawn out process but we finally we were able to put the two brands together. This is really going to change the face of MMA. 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."
Early talk is that PRIDE FC will continue to run as a separate company called Pride FC Worldwide Holdings LLC, which will be overseen by one of the Fertitta's who will act as president for a yet-to-be created mixed martial arts commission.
The goal will be to restore PRIDE FC to its former glory, much like Zuffa did for the Ultimate Fighting Championship during the last few years.
And with a roster and fan base the likes of PRIDE FC, it doesn't seem like a difficult task. According to the AP story, the Fertittas also picked up assets, including trademarks, as well as the valuable and extensive video library.
With the acquisition, the Fertittas promised to facilitate some of the most exciting crossover matchups in the sport today.
In addition to Cro Cop vs. Fedor II, future "Superbowl-type" cards could feature Chuck Liddell vs. Mauricio Rua, Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson, Georges St. Pierre vs. Takanori Gomi — the list of possibilities at this stage is mindboggling.
Here's another snip from Fertitta:
"We will be able to literally put on the fights that everyone wants to see. It will allow us to put on some of the biggest fights ever."
According to the Sherdog.com article, Jeff Monson against Kazuyuki Fujita will step into the PRIDE ring on April 8 as the first such confrontation.
Sherdog.com has promised more details and photos, which we will pass along as soon as possible.
For now, take a deep breath, imagine the possibilities and try to let the news soak in. The Fertittas now own PRIDE FC — it's finally official.