UFC 190 was a great promotional success by all accounts. Ronda Rousey seemed to be the talk of the entire sports world that weekend and her buzz seems to be at an all-time high. The events that took place just before Rousey knocked out her opponent Bethe Correia in just 34 seconds had somewhat of a completely different feel and theme. It was, dare I say it, like an old Pride FC show.
It was interesting to see two completely different eras of MMA come together in one single night. On one hand, we saw the most dominant champion in the UFC today compete, and that champion is a female, something that was not even in the UFC’s plan just a few years back. On the other hand, we saw legends of the sport who competed at the highest levels during the early to mid 2000s, when Pride was considered by many to be home to the best fighters on the planet.
We’ve all seen the popular hashtags on social media once the UFC buys a major company. Every time a popular ex-WEC fighter competes under the UFC banner, it is hard to escape the “never die” hashtags. The same goes for Strikeforce. But there may be none more deserving of that hashtag than Pride. Pride FC is by far the oldest — and arguably the most successful — of the major companies the UFC has purchased over the years, and here we are in 2015 with a highly publicized pay-per-view card filled with former Pride greats. Even though they might not be on the same skill level as they once were and many of us have come to the realization they won’t be champions anytime soon (or ever again), there is an undeniable fact that fans still will tune in to watch these veterans put it all on the line again and again.
Adding to the ever-popular “Pride never die” talk on social media when old Pride competitors meet inside the cage, there are recurring rumors circulating that the UFC is in talks with retired Pride star Fedor Emelianenko. Yes, the Fedor who was Pride champion and ran through everybody on his way to being considered one of the best to ever wear four-ounce gloves. This is the same man many thought would never lose — until Fabricio Werdum caught him with a triangle choke in a 2010 Strikeforce bout. And yes, that would be the now-dominant UFC heavyweight champion Werdum. This stuff just writes itself.
If the UFC does in fact sign Fedor, we could see one of the biggest pay-per-views the UFC has done in quite a while, especially if he were to headline for a UFC heavyweight belt. Try to wrap your head around that — a guy who’s last real credible win in Pride came in 2006 against Mark Hunt could very well be a headliner for a numbered UFC show in 2015 or 2016. It is stories like this that vindicate all those people who love to brag about how the other major promotions the UFC has purchased throughout the years contribute greatly to the UFC, even in today’s ever-changing market.
However, in the bigger picture, what does that say about where the sport stands today when the arguably the biggest event of the year, which was headlined by the aforementioned Rousey, had an undercard that resembled those of Pride during it’s heyday? Does it say more about Pride and the relevance it still has today? Or does it say more about how, with so many shows, the UFC is having trouble creating new stars that people want to tune in to watch? These and other questions will be answered as time plays out, but one thing’s for sure: Pride has not in fact died.