Pride Fighting Championships
Pride Fighting Championships (Pride or Pride FC, founded as KRS-Pride) was a Japanese mixed martial arts promotion company founded by Nobuyuki Sakakibara and Nobuhiko Takada. Its inaugural event was held at the Tokyo Dome on October 11, 1997. Pride held more than sixty mixed martial arts events, broadcast to about 40 countries worldwide. Pride held the largest live MMA event audience record of 91,107 people at the Pride and K-1 co-production, Shockwave/Dynamite, held in August 2002, as well as the audience record of over 67,450 people at the Pride Final Conflict 2003. For ten years PRIDE was one of the most popular MMA organizations in the world.
|Industry||Mixed martial arts promotion|
|Fate||Merged with Ultimate Fighting Championship|
|Successor||Ultimate Fighting Championship|
|Founded||Tokyo, Japan October 11, 1997|
|Defunct||October 4, 2007|
In March 2007, Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE) sold Pride to Lorenzo Fertitta and Frank Fertitta III, co-owners of Zuffa, which owns the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). While remaining as legally separate entities with separate managements, the two promotions were set to cooperate in a manner akin to the AFL-NFL merger. However, such an arrangement did not materialize, and in October 2007, Pride Worldwide's Japanese staff was laid off, marking the end of the organization as an active fight promoter. As a result, many of the Pride staff left to form a new organization alongside K-1 parent company Fighting and Entertainment Group. That new organization, founded in February 2008, was named Dream.
Pride Fighting Championships was initially conceived of in 1997, to match popular Japanese pro-wrestler Nobuhiko Takada with Rickson Gracie, the purported champion of the Gracie family of Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners. The event, held at the Tokyo Dome on October 11, 1997, and organised by the KRS (Kakutougi Revolutionary Spirits) promotion, attracted 47,000 fans, as well as Japanese mass media attention. The success of the first event enabled its promoters to hold a regular series of mixed martial arts events, and a year later in 1998, to promote a rematch between Takada and Gracie. With K-1 enjoying popularity in Japan, Pride began to compete with monthly showings on Fuji Television, as well as pay per view on the newly formed satellite television channel SKY PerfecTV. The series was taken over by the DSE after the dissolvement of the KRS following the fourth event and it was accordingly renamed as the Pride Fighting Championships.
In 2000, Pride hosted the first Pride Grand Prix, a two-part openweight tournament held to find the "world's best fighter". The tournament was held over the course of two events, with sixteen fighters competing in an opening round and the eight winners returning three months later for the final round. The second round of the tournament marked the first time Pride was broadcast in the United States and featured American fighter Mark Coleman winning the tournament by defeating Igor Vovchanchyn in the final round.
In August 2002, Pride teamed up with Japan's leading kickboxing and fight promotion, K-1, and held the world's biggest fight event, Shockwave (known as Pride/K-1 Dynamite!! in Japan), which attracted over 71,000 fans.  On January 13, 2003, the Pride MMA production was thrown into turmoil when DSE president Naoto Morishita was found dead hanging by his neck in his hotel room, apparently after his mistress told him she wanted to end their affair. Speculation loomed whether this could possibly be the real reason, as trouble with tax authorities and the yakuza have also been speculated as playing a role. Nobuyuki Sakakibara later assumed the presidency.
In 2003 Pride introduced the Bushido series of events, which focused mainly, but not exclusively, on the lighter weight classes of lightweights and welterweights. The Bushido series also stressed a faster pace, with bouts consisting of only one ten-minute round and one five-minute round, as well as quicker referee intervention of stalling tactics, using the new "yellow card" system of purse deduction.
Also in 2003, Pride returned to the tournament format, with a middleweight grand prix spanning two events, Pride Total Elimination 2003 and Final Conflict 2003. The format was expanded to three events in 2004, adding Critical Countdown 2004 as the second round. Pride would go on to hold annual tournaments, a heavyweight tournament in 2004, a middleweight in 2005, and an openweight in 2006.
In 2006 DSE announced it would showcase Pride alongside the Ultimate Fighting Championship, North America's largest MMA event, and would be integrating their fighters, including Wanderlei Silva and Kazuyuki Fujita, at a UFC MMA show in November. However, Dana White, speaking on behalf of Zuffa then commented that the announced bout between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva was unlikely to happen because "the Japanese are very hard to do business with". This statement was likely due to the failure of previous attempts between Zuffa and DSE to organize a fighter exchange agreement. Specifically after entering Liddell in Pride's 2003 middleweight tournament, which was also with the intention of Liddell eventually fighting Silva, which fell through when Liddell lost in the semi-finals to Quinton Jackson (Jackson subsequently lost to Silva by technical knockout in the finals.)
Pride continued to enjoy success, holding roughly ten events per year, and even out-drawing rival K-1 at the annual New Year's Eve show Pride Shockwave 2005. On October 21, 2006, Pride held its first MMA event in US, Pride 32: The Real Deal took place in front of an audience of 11,727 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Paradise, Nevada, and was the first Pride event to be held outside Japan.
On June 5, 2006, the Fuji Network announced that they were terminating their television contract with Pride Fighting Championships effective immediately due to a breach of contract by DSE. This left Pride with only SKY PerfecTV, a pay-per-view carrier, as a television outlet in Japan, and the loss of the substantial revenues from the Fuji deal threatened its sustainability. Dream was surrounded by speculation in the Japanese media, especially in the Japanese tabloid Shukan Gendai, that it may be a front for the notorious yakuza crime organization. Dream responded to the loss by stating they will continue with their schedule as currently planned, including an event in Las Vegas, Pride 33: Second Coming which took place on February 24, 2007, Pride's second event outside Japan.
In late 2006, DSE hinted at plans for Mike Tyson to fight in the organization's New Year's Eve show. Tyson was to face a Pride fighter under boxing rules. Since Tyson is not allowed to fight in Japan because of his criminal record, Pride wanted to stage the fight in an alternate country, possibly Macau, China. The fight would be broadcast live on large television screens in the Saitama Super Arena, where the regular mixed martial arts bouts were held. The fight did not occur, however.
On November 29, 2006, Pride announced the discontinuation of its Bushido events, with the intention of integrating the matches from lighter weight classes, mainly featured in Bushido, into regular Pride events. Pride also announced that future Grand Prix tournaments would take place on a four-year weight class cycle, with one Grand Prix per year. The first expected one, a lightweight Grand Prix, ended up being cancelled.
Pride Worldwide eraEdit
On Tuesday, March 27, 2007, Pride executives Nobuyuki Sakakibara and Nobuhiko Takada announced that Station Casinos Inc. magnate Lorenzo Fertitta, co-owner of Zuffa and its subsidiary MMA production Ultimate Fighting Championship, had made a deal to acquire all assets of Pride Fighting Championships from Dream Stage Entertainment after Pride 34: Kamikaze in a deal reportedly worth USD$65 million, though the figure was not publicly disclosed. Managing the assets under the newly created Pride FC Worldwide Holdings, LLC, including their video library and the contracts of the fighters currently on the Pride roster, the new management company had originally planned to continue to promote Pride events in Japan and keep to its previously announced schedule. Lorenzo Fertitta announced they planned to operate Pride separately from Zuffa's two MMA brands, the UFC and WEC, planned on having occasional crossover shows and matches, pitting fighters from Pride against fighters "from the UFC," using the metaphor of the AFL-NFL merger to compare the situation.
Subsequent remarks by Zuffa spokesperson Dana White however cast doubt as to what the new owners would actually do with Pride. After the sale officially closed on May 25, 2007, White remarked that he planned on bringing Pride's biggest names into UFC competition instead of keeping them in Pride and that they were still deciding on what to do with Pride itself. In later comments made in August 2007, White expressed doubt that Zuffa can resurrect Pride in Japan, claiming, "I've [or, we] pulled everything out of the trick box that I can and I can't get a TV deal over there with Pride. I don't think they want us there. I don't think they want me there."
On October 4, 2007, Pride Worldwide closed its Japanese office, laying off 20 people who were working there since the closing of DSE.
The final Pride events have been released on DVD under the Pride Worldwide label.
Pride Fighting Championships released two licensed video games during its time in business. As well as being featured in an Ultimate Fighting Championship game in 2012.
- The first game, Pride FC: Fighting Championships was developed by Anchor Inc. and released by THQ for the PlayStation 2 in February 2003 in Japan and North America and April 2003 in Europe. The game received an aggregate score of 73/100 on Metacritic, based on 19 critic reviews.
- The second game, PrideGP Grand Prix 2003 was developed and released by Capcom also for the PlayStation 2 in November 2003, but was only released in Japan.
- Pride Fighting Championships was also featured in the video game UFC Undisputed 3. Featuring main Pride event rules and 33 Pride fighters (not counting the Pride alumni on the UFC roster to date), the mode also has commentary provided by Bas Rutten, Stephen Quadros and Lenne Hardt.
Pride matches consisted of three rounds; the first lasted ten minutes and the second and third each lasted five minutes. Intermissions between each round were two minutes long. In Pride events held in the United States, NSAC Unified MMA rules were used: non-title matches consisted of three five-minute rounds and title matches consisted of five five-minute rounds, both with 60-second intermissions between rounds.
When two rounds of a Grand Prix took place on the same night, Grand Prix bouts consisted of two rounds, the first lasting ten minutes and the second lasting five. Intermissions between each round remained two minutes long.
- Pride Fighting Championships does not divide their fighters based on weight divisions per se. A fighter may be booked to fight an opponent of any weight. Weight divisions are used for championship bouts and for Grands Prix to decide a best fighter at a given weight class.
- Heavyweight (more than 93 kg / 205 lb)
- Middleweight (less than or equal to 93 kg / 205 lb)
- Welterweight (less than or equal to 83 kg / 183 lb)
- Lightweight (less than or equal to 73 kg / 161 lb)
Pride used a five-roped square ring with sides 7 m in length (approximately 23 ft). The same was used at Pride: Bushido events.
Pride allowed fighters latitude in their choice of attire but open finger gloves, a mouthguard and a protective cup were mandatory. Fighters were allowed to use tape on parts of their body or to wear a gi top, gi pants, wrestling shoes, kneepads, elbow pads, or ankle supports, and masks at their own discretion, though each was checked by the referee before the fight.
Matches could be won via:
- A fighter taps either his opponent or the mat three times
- A fighter verbally submits
- Technical submission
- A fighter goes unconscious from a choke
- An arm, or any other body part, is broken by the submission
- A fighter falls from a legal blow and is either unconscious or unable to immediately continue
- Technical knockout
- Referee stoppage (the referee stops the match after seeing that one fighter is completely dominant to the point of endangering his opponent)
- Doctor stoppage (the referee stops the match in the event that a fighter is injured via a legal blow and the ring doctor determines that he cannot continue)
- Forfeited match (a fighter's corner throws in the towel)
- If the match reaches its time limit then the outcome of the bout is determined by the three judges. The fight is scored in its entirety and not round-by-round. (In Pride events staged in the United States, however, the fights were scored round by round.) After the third round, each judge must decide a winner. Matches cannot end in a draw. A decision is made according to the following criteria in this order of priority:
- The effort made to finish the fight via KO or submission
- Damage given to the opponent
- Standing combinations and ground control
- Takedowns and takedown defense
- Weight (in the case that the weight difference is 10 kg/22 lb or more)
- If a fight was stopped on advice of the ring doctor after an accidental but illegal action, e.g. a clash of heads, and the contest is in its second or third round, the match was decided by the judges using the same criteria.
- A "warning" was given in the form of a yellow card or a green card (The green card gave a 10% deduction of a fighter's purse) when a fighter committed an illegal action or did not follow the referee's instruction. Three warnings resulted in a disqualification
- A fighter was disqualified if a match was stopped, on the advice of the ring doctor, as a result of his deliberate illegal actions.
- The application of oil, ointment, spray, Vaseline, massaging cream, hair cream, or any other substances to any part of the fighter's body before and during the fights was prohibited. The discovery of any of these substances resulted in a disqualification.
- No contest
- In the event that both sides committed a violation of the rules, the bout would be declared a "no contest."
- If a fight was stopped on the advice of the ring doctor after an accidental but illegal action, i.e. a clash of heads, the match would be declared a no contest in the first round only
Pride Fighting Championships considered the following to be fouls:
- Head butting
- Eye gouging
- Hair pulling
- Fish hooking
- Any attacks to the groin
- Purposely striking the back of the head (if a punch was thrown and the fighter turned away letting it land on the back of his head it was okay), which included the occipital region and the spine. The sides of the head and the area around the ears were not considered to be the back of the head. (see Rabbit punch)
- Small joint manipulation (control of four or more fingers or toes was necessary)
- Elbow strikes to the head and face
- Intentionally throwing the opponent out of the ring
- Running out of the ring
- Purposely holding the ropes. Fighters were not permitted to purposely hang an arm or leg on the ropes and it would result in an immediate warning.
- Stomps to a grounded fighter along with kicks and knees to the head of a grounded fighter, only in events in the US
In the event that a fighter was injured by illegal actions, then at the discretion of the referee and ring doctor, the round would attempt to be resumed after enough time had been given to the fighter to recover. Once the fight started again the fighters would be placed in the exact position when the referee called the time out. If the match could not be continued due to the severity of the injury then the fighter who perpetrated the action was disqualified.
- If both fighters were on the verge of falling out of the ring or became entangled in the ropes, the referee would stop the action. The fighters were required to immediately stop their movements and then would be repositioned in the center of the ring in the same relative position. Once they were comfortably repositioned, they would resume at the referee's instruction.
- Referees could give a fighter a penalty card for lack of activity. Every card, including warning cards, were a 10% deduction of a fighter's purse, this method was aimed to prevent inaction.
Matches between fighters of different weight classesEdit
Pride made special provisions for fights between fighters of different weight classes or fighters with a large weight difference in the same weight class. The lighter fighter was given a choice of whether or not to permit knees or kicks to the face when in the "four points" position in the following cases:
- If both fighters were in the middleweight class and there was a weight difference of 10 kg/22 lb or more between the fighters.
- If the match was between a middleweight and heavyweight and there was a weight difference of 10 kg/22 lb or more between the fighters.
- If both fighters were in the heavyweight class and there was a weight difference of 15 kg/33 lb or more between the fighters.
The word BUSHIDO translates from the Japanese language as "the way of the warrior." More specifically, the term refers to the principals and moral code that developed among the samurai (military) class of Japan. Today, in the spirit of the samurai from Japan, PRIDE FC brings you the "way of the warrior" with its mixed martial arts event, BUSHIDO. Featuring a mixture of elite fighters as well as young up and coming talent, BUSHIDO presents the entire spectrum of weight classes, from lightweights to heavy weights. In addition, BUSHIDO provides flexibility for more experimental fight card formats, such as "team" competitions pitting country versus country, or fight team versus fight team. BUSHIDO also welcomes up and coming fighters, giving them an opportunity to prove themselves in BUSHIDO "Challenge Matches."  There were a few minor differences from main Pride events:
- Bouts on Pride Bushido events consisted of two rounds; the first lasting ten minutes and the second lasting five. Intermissions between each round were two minutes in length.
- Bushido "Challenge Matches" consisted of two rounds lasting five minutes each. Intermissions between each round were two minutes in length.
- In Bushido, red cards were issued in a similar way that yellow cards were used in Pride FC. A red card resulted in a 10% deduction of the fighter's fight purse. Red cards could be given out in an unlimited number without disqualification. If fighters committed the following actions, they were to be given a red card by officials:
- stalling or failure to initiate any offensive attack
- making no attempt to finalize the match or damage the opponent
- holding the opponent's body with the arms and legs to produce a stalemate
Differences from the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial ArtsEdit
Some states' athletic commissions require mixed martial arts events to modify rules to match the Mixed Martial Arts Unified Rules of Combat, as introduced by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, and adopted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission in order to receive state sanctioning.
Pride's rules differed from the Unified Rules of Combat in the following ways:
- Pride allowed kicking and kneeing the head of a downed opponent. This is considered a foul in the unified rules, which only allows kicks and knees to the head of a standing opponent.
- Pride allowed a fighter to stomp the head of a downed opponent. This is considered a foul in the unified rules.
- Pride allowed a fighter to spike (piledrive) an opponent onto the canvas on his head or neck. This is considered a foul in the unified rules.
- Pride did not allow elbow strikes to the head of an opponent. The unified rules allow elbows provided they are not striking directly down with the point of the elbow (12 o'clock to 6 o'clock).
- Pride's matches included a ten-minute first round, with two-minute rest periods. The unified rules allow rounds no longer than five minutes, with rest periods not exceeding one minute.
- Pride's matches were not judged on the ten-point must system, rather judges scored the whole fight. The unified rules call for all matches to be judged using the ten-point must system.
At the announcement on March 27, 2007, that the Fertittas were purchasing Pride, it was stated that all future Pride events (after Pride 34) would be held under unified rules, eliminating 10-minute opening rounds, ground knees, stomps and more, though there were no more Pride events held to use these rules.
Events typically begin with the theme music entitled Pride, composed by Yasuharu Takanashi. In addition to their main, "numbered" events, Pride have staged other series of events for different purposes.
Pride Grand PrixEdit
The Pride GP (Grand Prix) is the name of a series of tournaments held by Pride. In addition to a money prize, a championship belt was given to the winner of each tournament, though this belt only denoted the tournament winner and would never be defended. However, Pride's Shockwave 2005 event crowned not only the welterweight and lightweight tournament champions, but also Pride's inaugural welterweight and lightweight champions. Of note is the amount of past and future champions that would participate in these tournaments.
In 2000, Pride held their first Grand Prix. With no weight limits, it is now considered to be their first openweight grand prix. Held across two events, Pride Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round featured first round bouts and Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals featured the quarter finals, semi finals and final.
The concept was brought back in 2003, with a middleweight grand prix. Held across two cards, Pride Total Elimination 2003 featured the first round of the Grand Prix and Final Conflict 2003 featured the semi finals and final. Subsequent middleweight, heavyweight and openweight grands prix had taken place across three events when, in 2004, Critical Countdown was introduced for second round bouts. Both Critical Countdown and Final Conflict had a mix of Grand Prix and non-Grand Prix matches.
In 2007, it was announced that Pride would hold only one Grand Prix a year and it would rotate between each of their four established weight classes.
Except for the inaugural 2000 Grand Prix, tournament dates with only one round would adhere to normal Pride or Pride Bushido rules. For tournament dates that held two rounds, a fight had a 10-minute first round, followed by a two-minute rest period for the fighters, and then a five-minute last round.
The 2000 Finals held a 90-minute contest between Kazushi Sakuraba and Royce Gracie. Gracie had requested that there be no judging and no limit to the number of rounds. Sakuraba agreed to fight under these rules, and the contest went to a total of 90 minutes of fighting, after which Gracie's corner threw in the towel due to damage to Gracie's legs. Sakuraba advanced to the next round, fighting a fifteen-minute first round against eventual runner up Igor Vovchanchyn, after which Sakuraba's corner threw in the towel citing his exhaustion.
List of eventsEdit
|2000||Openweight||Opening round, finals||Mark Coleman|
|2003||Middleweight||Pride Total Elimination 2003, Final Conflict||Wanderlei Silva|
|2004||Heavyweight||Total Elimination, Critical Countdown, Final Conflict||Fedor Emelianenko|
|2005||Middleweight||Total Elimination, Critical Countdown, Final Conflict||Mauricio Rua|
|2005||Welterweight||Bushido 9, Shockwave||Dan Henderson|
|2005||Lightweight||Bushido 9, Shockwave||Takanori Gomi|
|2006||Openweight||Total Elimination, Critical Countdown, Final Conflict||Mirko Filipović|
With Pride's numbered shows and Grands Prix focused on heavier fighters, in October 2003, Pride started a series of events entitled "Bushido". With the focus on lighter combatants, two weight classes, lightweight and welterweight, were formed at 73 and 83 kg respectively. After Pride Bushido 13, it was announced that the series would end and these weight classes would transfer to main Pride shows.
In 2005, Pride Bushido staged welterweight and lightweight Grands Prix. Two eight-man brackets were set up and the quarter finals and semi finals were held at Pride Bushido 9, along with an alternate bout in each bracket. The finals were held at Pride Shockwave 2005, with the winners subsequently being crowned as champions for their division. A sixteen-man welterweight grand prix was held in 2006.
Pride The BestEdit
In 2002, Pride launched The Best, a series of shows featuring up-and-coming fighters, using an eight-sided roped ring. However, after the third show in October 2002, the series was discontinued. The concept was later refined into the Pride Bushido events.
When Zuffa LLC bought Pride, it moved to unify the Pride middleweight and welterweight titles with its own light-heavyweight (205 lbs) and middleweight (185 lbs) titles. Dan Henderson, who held both the Pride middleweight and welterweight belts at the time of the Zuffa buy-out, was beaten in two unification bouts, first to Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson in September 2007 and then to middleweight Anderson Silva in March 2008.
The titleholders below were those who held the titles on April 8, 2007, the date of the last Pride FC promoted show.
An asterisk (*) indicates that the tournament was also a title fight.
|Division||Weight limit||Champion||Since||Title defenses|
|Heavyweight||Unlimited||Fedor Emelianenko||March 16, 2003||3|
|Middleweight||93 kg (205.0 lb)||Dan Henderson||February 24, 2007||0|
|Welterweight||83 kg (183.0 lb)||Dan Henderson||December 31, 2005||0|
|Lightweight||73 kg (160.9 lb)||Takanori Gomi||December 31, 2005||1|
|Year/weight division||Champion||Runner up||Event|
|2000 Openweight||Mark Coleman||Igor Vovchanchyn||Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals|
|2003 Middleweight||Wanderlei Silva||Quinton "Rampage" Jackson||Pride Final Conflict 2003|
|2004 Heavyweight||Fedor Emelianenko||Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira||Pride Shockwave 2004*|
|2005 Middleweight||Mauricio "Shogun" Rua||Ricardo Arona||Pride Final Conflict 2005|
|2005 Welterweight||Dan Henderson||Murilo Bustamante||Pride Shockwave 2005*|
|2005 Lightweight||Takanori Gomi||Hayato Sakurai||Pride Shockwave 2005*|
|2006 Openweight||Mirko Filipović||Josh Barnett||Pride Final Conflict Absolute|
|2006 Welterweight||Kazuo Misaki||Denis Kang||Pride Bushido 13|
The following fighters have won a tournament or championship titles or were high contenders in Pride. Some have competed in different weight classes.
- Fedor Emelianenko (last Pride FC Heavyweight Champion, Pride FC 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion, undefeated in Pride)
- Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira (first Pride FC Heavyweight Champion, Pride FC Heavyweight Interim Champion, Pride FC 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix runner-up, former UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion)
- Mirko Filipović (Pride FC 2006 Openweight Grand Prix Champion, Pride FC 2005 Heavyweight title challenger, K-1 World Grand Prix 2012 Champion, former IGF Heavyweight Champion, Rizin FF 2016 Openweight Grand Prix Champion)
- Mark Coleman (Pride FC 2000 Openweight Grand Prix Champion, former UFC Heavyweight Champion)
- Josh Barnett (Pride FC 2006 Openweight Grand Prix runner-up, former UFC Heavyweight Champion)
- Igor Vovchanchyn (Pride FC 2000 Openweight Grand Prix runner-up)
- Ken Shamrock (Pride FC 2000 Superfight winner, former UFC Superfight Champion)
- Kevin Randleman (former UFC Heavyweight Champion)
- Sergei Kharitonov (Pride FC 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix semi-finalist)
- Mark Hunt (Pride FC 2006 Heavyweight Title challenger, K-1 World Grand Prix 2001 Champion)
- Semmy Schilt (four-time K-1 World Grand Prix Champion, former K-1 Super Heavyweight Champion, current Glory Heavyweight Champion, Glory Heavyweight Grand Slam 2012 Champion)
- Don Frye (UFC 8 and Ultimate Ultimate 1996 Tournament Champion)
- Kazuyuki Fujita (Pride FC 2000 Openweight Grand Prix Semi-finalist)
- Fabrício Werdum (Former UFC Heavyweight Champion)
- Wanderlei Silva (first Pride FC Middleweight Champion and Pride FC 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix Champion, most wins, title defenses, fights, and knockouts in Pride history)
- Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (Pride FC 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix Champion and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion)
- Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (Pride FC 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix runner-up and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion)
- Kazushi Sakuraba (Pride FC 2000 Openweight Grand Prix semi-finalist, Pride FC 2001 Middleweight Title runner-up and Pride FC 2003 Middleweight Title challenger)
- Ricardo Arona (Pride FC 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix runner-up)
- Kiyoshi Tamura (Pride FC 2002 Middleweight Title challenger)
- Royce Gracie (UFC One, Two and Four champion)
- Alistair Overeem (former Dream and Strikeforce heavyweight champion, 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix Champion)
- Hidehiko Yoshida (1992 Summer Olympics 78 kg Judo gold medalist and Pride FC 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix semi-finalist)
- Anderson Silva (former Shooto Middleweight Champion, former and final Cage Rage Middleweight Champion, and former UFC Middleweight Champion)
- Murilo Rua (former Elite XC Middleweight Champion)
- Chuck Liddell (2003 Pride FC Middleweight Grand Prix semi-finalist and former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion)
- Hiromitsu Kanehara (Pride FC 2002 Middleweight Title challenger)
- Dan Henderson (Pride FC 2005 Welterweight Grand Prix Champion, last Pride FC Welterweight Champion and Middleweight Champion, last Strikeforce Light Heavweight Champion)
- Carlos Newton (former UFC Welterweight Champion)
- Kazuo Misaki (Pride FC 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix Champion)
- Murilo Bustamante (Pride FC 2005 Welterweight Grand Prix runner-up and former UFC Middleweight Champion)
- Denis Kang (Pride FC 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix runner-up)
- Paulo Filho (former WEC Middleweight Champion and Pride FC 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix finalist: replaced due to injury by Kazuo Misaki)
- Ikuhisa Minowa (Pride FC 2005 Welterweight Grand Prix semi-finalist)
- Akihiro Gono (Pride FC 2005 and 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix semi-finalist)
- Gegard Mousasi (former Strikeforce Light Heavweight Champion, former Dream Light Heavyweight and Middleweight Champion, 2010 DREAM Light Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion and 2008 Dream Middleweight Grand Prix Champion)
- Hector Lombard (former Bellator Middleweight Champion)
- Takanori Gomi (only Pride FC Lightweight Champion and Pride FC 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix Champion)
- Hayato Sakurai (Pride FC 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix runner-up)
- Marcus Aurélio (Pride FC 2006 Lightweight Title challenger)
- Joachim Hansen (Pride FC 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix semi-finalist, former Shooto Welterweight Champion and former Dream Lightweight Champion)
- Luiz Azeredo (Pride FC 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix semi-finalist)
- Shinya Aoki (current One Fighting Championship Lightweight Champion, former Dream Lightweight Champion and former Shooto Welterweight Champion)
- Jens Pulver (former UFC Lightweight Champion)
- Tatsuya Kawajiri (former Shooto Welterweight Champion)
- Gilbert Melendez (former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion and Former WEC Lightweight Champion)
- Daisuke Nakamura (former Deep Lightweight Champion)
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