With the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) making its highly anticipated return to Japan this weekend (Feb. 25, 2012) with UFC 144, its first time since UFC 29 way back in 2000, many fans were hoping the return would give somewhat of a glimmer of hope for a PRIDE FC revival, or at the very least a tribute event.
"Sorry, but no," says UFC President Dana White.
As is customary with the promotion, when the UFC holds an event in Canada or Brazil, they try their hardest to please the hometown crowd by stacking the event with Canadian or Brazilian fighters, respectively.
Japan is no different. UFC 144 will include Japanese fighters Takanori Gomi, Yushin Okami, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Hatsu Hioki, Norifumi Yamamoto, Riki Fukuda, Takeya Mizugaki and Issei Tamura.
The event will also feature Quinton Jackson and Mark Hunt, two fighters who made a name for themselves while fighting under the PRIDE banner in the "Land of the Rising Sun."
Though many of PRIDE's former stars are now under contract with the UFC, White tells the media in attendance at the UFC 144 pre-fight press conference in Japan that there will not be an all ex-PRIDE fighters card at a future UFC in Japan to honor them.
"I don't think so. The PRIDE thing didn't work out, we gave it a shot, it didn't work out. Again like I said, The PRIDE organization, the gentleman who asked me earlier that I was the guy who killed PRIDE, it's completely untrue. PRIDE is the only other organization that I have ever respected. But, no, the UFC will be the events that we bring here, and the great history of PRIDE, there's no more PRIDE events."
PRIDE events in Japan, which featured spectacular show openings and entertaining entrances along with displays of showmanship from competitors, brought the fans out in droves, oftentimes filling arenas to record capacity, as was the case with PRIDE Final Conflict 2003, which brought out 67,450 fans to the Tokyo Dome.
Better yet, the Shockwave/Dynamite event in 2002, a PRIDE and K-1 co-production, filled Tokyo National Stadium with over 91,000 eager fight fans, 36,000 more than UFC's largest attendance to date of 55,000 strong at the Rogers Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for UFC 129.
White recently revealed the promotions return to Japan has been a success and the wheels are already in motion for a return. However, do not expect a card filled with fighters like Dan Henderson, Mauricio Rua, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Anderson Silva, and Wanderlei Silva, amongst others, but rather a mixture of today's top UFC stars and a little PRIDE flavor for nostalgia.
Anyone disappointed that the Ghosts of Saitama likely won't have chance to be resurrected one final time, and will forever be wandering the Saitama Super Arena with only memories to hold on to? Or is White right to focus strictly on the UFC brand Far East? Can all of the die-hard fans finally let go with this revelation?