No one at the time could have grasped the brevity of what was about to take place and how it would forever change mixed martial arts. Twenty years ago today, on Oct. 11, 1997, Kakutougi Revolutionary Spirits (later called Dream Stage Entertainment) brought Pride Fighting Championships into existence, as 47,860 fans poured into the Tokyo Dome for Pride 1.
In that moment, the combat sports landscape was permanently altered.
Pride 1 staged six MMA bouts, resulting in three submissions, two draws and a knockout. The headliner saw undefeated jiu-jitsu ace Rickson Grace dispatch Nobuhiko Takada with a first-round armbar in less than five minutes. In other results from the historic card: Koji Kitao submitted Nathan Jones with a keylock, Gary Goodridge knocked out Oleg Taktarov and Kazunari Murakami tapped John Dixson with an armbar. Meanwhile, Kimo Leopoldo and Dan Severn fought to a 30-minute draw, as did Renzo Gracie and Akira Shoji.
Known for its lavish set designs and professional wrestling-style entrances, Pride Fighting Championships went on to promote 68 total events before being purchased by Ultimate Fighting Championship parent company Zuffa LLC in 2007. It provided the sport of mixed martial arts with some of its most memorable bouts, from the 90-minute marathon between Royce Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba and the clash-of-the-titans showdown between Mirko Filipovic and Fedor Emelianenko to the violent two-fight series between Quinton Jackson and Wanderlei Silva. There was Jackson’s horrific power bomb knockout against Ricardo Arona, Mauricio Rua’s march through the 2005 middleweight grand prix, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s survival-of-the-fittest encounter with the monstrous Bob Sapp before a crowd of 91,107 at Tokyo National Stadium, Nick Diaz’s gogoplata on Takanori Gomi and countless other enduring memories.
Pride Fighting Championships during its 10-year run left an indelible mark on MMA -- one that can still be felt today, two decades after it arrived on the scene.