UFC president Dana White has Pride on the mind as he takes the Ultimate Fighting Champion back to Japan this year.
Speaking with The Daily Telegraph’s Gareth A. Davies, White explained the significance of reentering the Japanese market, a territory once ruled by the legendary Pride Fighting Championships and left struggling in the wake of its dissolution. For White, who sees Pride as the only true competitor the UFC ever had, revisiting the Land of the Rising Sun stirs warm emotions.
“Some of the greatest fights that have ever happened in MMA happened over in Japan,” said White. “And I’ve always said, that huge rivalry that happened between us and Pride, it was some of the funnest moments of my life. It was actually fun. If you look back throughout history, there’s only one show that I have ever said was a competitor to the UFC and it was Pride. Pride was the only show that was ever even — that I would ever put on the same level, and put on a pedestal that was the same as the UFC.
“Not only did it deliver great fights, they created a lot of great fighters. And Pride is the only other show that I have watched, too. It’s the only show that I ever watched. I used to go there an watch it live. I let Chuck Liddell go fight over there and other UFC fighters. You know, the whole days of the Pride organization were fun. It was a good time for me.”
The UFC will return to Japan this month at the Saitama Super Arena with UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson, beginning a committed rebuilding of the Japanese MMA scene.
“So, long story short, Japan is a very important market to us,” he said. “Do I think that we’re gonna go over to Japan and do 100,000 people? No. I think were gonna go over to japan and they’re are gonna be some hardcore fans that are gonna wanna come and see the UFC and we’re gonna have to build that market back up.”