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In the wake of Pride, a new DREAM begins
By: Larry Vollmer – http://mma.lohudblogs.com
When the UFC brought Pride Fighting Championships in March of 2007, the casual UFC fan was very excited. The acquisition of Pride meant that the UFC would easily get hold of some of Pride’s top guys, fighters like Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
The UFC has put on some pretty good fights since the purchase of Pride, but they failed to sign a number of key fighters. Fedor Emelianenko, Takinori Gomi, and Josh Barnett are a few names that come to mind. These top names have been left in limbo, fighting for smaller organizations with less name value fighting lower level talent.
The aftermath of the sale has left the hardcore mixed martial arts fan yearning for more. The UFC and Pride were both in the business of mixed martial arts, but the brand of mixed martial arts they promote contrasts in many ways.
Pride put on a hell of a show. Aside from having some of the best talent in the world, the productions were top notch. The arenas were filled with hi definition plasma screens while pyrotechnics and laser shows gleamed magnificently during fighter entrances. You don’t see this in the UFC. They cram so many seats into the arenas that fighters have to avoid being groped and grabbed while making that infamous walk to the octagon.
Pride fights were a spectacle before, during, and after the fight; you felt like you were watching something special. I’m not taking anything away from a UFC fight because the UFC has put on some great shows in the past year. But until that cage door closes and the fighters are staring each other down, you don’t realize the magnitude the of event that is taking place before your eyes.
Another important element of mixed martial arts that became extinct in the UFC/Pride deal was the ever-popular grand prix tournament. There are two types of grand prix tournaments. The concept of a grand prix tournament is to find the best fighter in a certain weight class. The tournament is usually held across two events. The first round of a grand prix usually features 8 fights in a selected weight class. The winners of the opening round of fights will face off in tournament style bouts at a second PPV. The semi-finals and finals take place on the same night, meaning that fighters will fight two times in one night. The winner is crowned the grand prix champion of that weight class. The last divisional grand prix featured heavyweight fighters, and Fedor Emelianenko took the crown home for that tournament.
The second type of grand prix is usually the more anticipated type – the open weight grand prix. The rules and format are the same with the only difference being that there are no weight restrictions. The last open weight grand prix champion was Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.
Grand prix style tournaments won’t happen in the states for a couple of reasons. Athletic commissions won’t allow fighters to fight more then once in a given night. Open weight grand prix’s aren’t an option either because the commissions won’t sanction those types of fights. If fighters from different weight classes are competing against each other, the athletic commission will usually make them fight a catch weight.
It has become quite clear that the UFC is the number one organization for mixed martial arts, but it has also become clear that MMA fans want to see the Japanese brand of the sport. Fans want to see knees, kicks, and stomps to the head of a grounded opponent. Fans want to see better production value. Fans want to see tournament style fights.
After the Zuffa buy out of PRIDE FC, the former Dream Stage Entertainment executives put on a collaborative New Years Eve mixed martial arts show with Shooto, M-1 Global, and the Fight Entertainment group, called Yarennoka!. This show was intended to be a farewell show of PRIDE FC. However, due to its large success and petitioning by Japanese MMA fans, the FEG and the former DSE staff decided to combine their efforts and form a new Japanese promotion.
The new promotion was confirmed on February 13th, 2008 at a press conference in Japan. As part of the new promotion, FEG's HERO's was dissolved. However, HERO's fighters signed with FEG were confirmed to be part of the new DREAM Brand. In addition to the former HERO's stars, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović announced he would join the organization. Fedor Emelianenko was present at the DREAM press conference to promote the company as well.
The organization also announced it would bring back the grand prix format, with the first two grand prix tournaments featuring lightweights and middleweights respectively.
On March 15th, the DREAM will put on its first show; the card will feature the first round of the lightweight grand prix tournament. The first round features some of the best lightweight fighters in the world today:
-Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Kultar "Black Mamba" Gill
-Shinya Aoki vs. Gesias "JZ" Calvancante
-Mitsuhiro Ishida vs. Jung Bu-Kyung
-Joachim Hansen vs. Koutetsu Boku
-Kazuyuki Miyata vs. Luiz "Buscape" Firmino
-Andre "Dida" Amade vs. Eddie Alvarez
-Artur Oumakhanov vs. Katsuhiko Nagata
There will be some non-tournament fights as well. Most notably, Mirko Filipovic will make his return to Japanese MMA when he squares off against Tatsuya Mizuno.
-Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic vs. Yoshihiro Nakao
-Hayato "Mach" Sakurai vs. Hidetaka Monma
-Ikuhisa Minowa vs. TBA
March 15th will mark the second era of Japanese MMA. DREAM will be a legit competitor in the world of mixed martial arts.
Larry Vollmer Jr. is a mixed martial arts blogger for the Journal News. Check out his blog at http://mma.lohudblogs.com.