If you haven’t heard about the PRIDE: Secret Files book published by the Japanese MMA and wrestling magazine, Kamipro, you really need to look that shit up, son.
In a nutshell, the book reveals "30 sealed plans" that never came to fruition for the FEG-era owned organization, which, had they happened could have changed MMA as we know it.
Think of it like "The Butterfly Effect" except instead of Ashton Kutcher, the lead in the movie is Nobuyuki Sakakibara
The book was released in December in Japanese and has since been translated into English by an independent source who is hawking his version online for a nominal donation.
Some of the subjects of the tome include:
• The true ambitions of Lorenzo Fertitta when he bought PRIDE
• DREAM was born from the PRIDE LW GP that was supposed to happen in 2008
• A planned PRIDE reality show that fell through
• Evander Holyfield was in talks to fight for the promotion
• "PRIDE Bushido" was originally named “PRIDE Survival”
• PRIDE’s Lightweight division was born from a life or death crisis of PRIDE Bushido
• Mike Tyson was in talks to face Cro Cop, Fedor, and Big Nog
• GSP and Kimbo were close to being signed by PRIDE
• A PRIDE revival that was secretly being planned
The first interesting chapter has been released and according to the authors, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic was scheduled to make his UFC debut nearly one year earlier than he did at UFC 67. The fighter sharing agreement between the promotions that was to be similar to the one that saw Chuck Liddell compete in the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix in 2003 and was supposed to see Randy Couture or Chuck face Wanderlei Silva never came to fruition, but considering how Mirko was still running through guys like Wand, Josh Barnett, Ikuhisa Minowa and Hidehiko Yoshida at the time, his career and the fate of PRIDE could have turned out much differently if it had.
It’s purely conjecture at this point, but maybe the fact that PRIDE screwed them was partially the impetus for the UFC buying and killing the promotion. I once bought a New Kids on the Block CD from a second hand store for a stick of gum and I burned it. That was pretty satisfying.
I guess we’ll just have to wait to read that chapter of the book.
Until then, here’s the part about Mirko’s originally planned Octagon debut (courtesy mma-japan):
On New Years Eve, 2006, the announcement had come that Mirko Crocop would begin fighting in the UFC. Being such a superstar in Japan, the fans reacted very hard to this news. The UFC had been prospering and mixed martial arts in the United States was beginning to grow rapidly. In Japan, mixed martial arts was in crisis mode and this sudden announcement could not have made it any clearer. The sale of PrideFC to Zuffa, and the “Mirko Shock” had JMMA in dire straits.
Mirko’s decision to fight in the UFC came from his desire to step up as a fighter and fulfilling his dream of conquering both Pride and the UFC. What is not known, however, in 2005 there had been plans for Mirko to fight for both Pride and the UFC.
This same year, the UFC had plans to make its long awaited re-entry into Japan and Mirko would be the representative for Pride. The tentative event had been scheduled for June 12th at the Yokohama Arena.
This was a huge break for the UFC, to break into the Japanese MMA market, and they felt they needed to push into the hotbed to grow their brand. The UFC had been in Japan in 1997 at the same Yokohama venue but further attempts at penetrating the Japanese market proved unsuccessful.
Preceding the Crocop event, Dana White announced at the August UFC 49 event that he would again bring the show to Japan. Randy Couture won his main event fight that night and promptly called out Wanderlei Silva to come to the octagon, proposing a double title match.
Questions remained. Would Silva go without notice as the PRIDE champion and meet Randy in the octagon? Pride’s cooperation with the UFC returning to Japan was evident. Pride was also in experiencing their “glory days” at this time (2004).
The UFC was not convinced the cooperation with Pride would be there and abandoned their plans for the December 2004 event. Again, they re-planned, and this time aimed for a June 2005 event.
Negotiations went along very smoothly at first. The UFC had received cooperation from Japan’s top boxing promotion who also had a lot to do with WOWOW’s broadcasting of the UFC events. With the backing of a major sports newspaper company, they planned to bring UFC 53 back to Yokohama. The plans went as far as reserving the arena.
With all the chips falling in place, there was one major factor that executives were having trouble working around. The lack of a Japanese superstar in the UFC would hurt any potential draw as Japanese fans are very loyal to their countrymen. Thus, the perfect fit – Mirko Crocop, who’s manager Imai had been working with the boxing organization.
In August of that year, it had been determined that Crocop would get his chance at the then champion Fedor Emelianenko. At such an important time, Mirko to switch courses and enter the octagon would prove to be a huge decision for the kickboxer.
It went without saying, even though Mirko would be fighting in the UFC, his move to the organization would not be an issue. DSE president Sakakibara had given the fighter his blessing to fight for the UFC, thus things began to move forward.
With Mirko being such a star and a huge draw for Pride, the decision was difficult for Sakakibara. Imai contacted Sakakibara saying, “If it’s only one time, it should be alright. Just for Mirko, maybe we don’t have a choice”. Sakakibara agreed, paving the way for a UFC event in Japan with Crocop as the headliner.
Then, the whole thing was put on hold. The UFC expected to make no money on the event. Sponsors were not interested in the event, and the UFC cancelled it, yet again.
Dana and Lorenzo’s view on the way things operated was not very optimistic. While they had the help of a well known Japanese promoter, a large venue for the fight, the risk reward tradeoff was too great for the executives to make. To pay the expenses for the fight, they would have needed to fill the Yokohama Arena. For that simple reason, Mirko had to be in the mix. Mirko being in the mix, however, would put the expenses of the event through the roof.
The UFC couldn’t escape the problems they were facing. On one hand, they could return to Japan, lose money, go home and having nothing to show for it. If they had gotten a live broadcast on terrestrial TV, they may have been able to scrape by with just the TV rights, but the UFC was such an unknown event in mainstream Japan, and WOWOW as their only pay TV provider, it was impossible to conceive they would be able to make any money.
The decision was finally made. The UFC would not go forward with an event in Japan. Mirko’s UFC debut became “phantom”. If Mirko would have won the belt, would the landscape of MMA been different today?