For the n00bs out there, there was a time when PRIDE was the preeminent MMA fighting promotion in the world. Here is my list, in no particular order, of the top 10 PRIDE fighters and what they are doing now.
“The Last Emperor” was undefeated in 15 PRIDE fights, beating a veritable who’s who list of MMA combatants: Cro Cop, Big Nog, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Gary Goodridge and more. Fedor was twice the PRIDE heavyweight champion. Fedor is currently fighting in Strikeforce and is likely to fight Fabricio Wedrum in April.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
“Big Nog” fought 21 times in PRIDE and like Fedor was a two-time heavyweight champion. Nog beat the likes of Cro Cop, Ricco Rodriguez, Dan Henderson, Josh Barnett and many others. Nogueira is set to fight Cain Velasquez at UFC 110 on Feb. 20 in Sydney, Australia.
“The Axe Murderer” earned his nickname in PRIDE as one of the most devastating and violent combatants that MMA has ever seen. He defeated Sakuraba to become PRIDE’s middleweight champion. He also was the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament Winner. In PRIDE he scored wins over Rampage, Ricardo Arona, Dan Henderson and Guy Mezger. His next fight is against Michael Bisping at UFC 110.
As the PRIDE welterweight and middleweight champion, Hendo is the only fighter to hold two titles in two different weight classes in a top MMA promotion at the same time. Hendo fought 18 times in PRIDE, defeating big names like Renzo Gracie, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, Ryo Chonan, Akihiro Gono and many others. He recently signed a 4-fight deal with Strikeforce after leaving the UFC. He scored one of the all-time MMA knockouts when he floored Michael Bisping at UFC 100.
“The Gracie Hunter” and MMA legend fought an astounding 27 times in PRIDE. He earned his nickname by defeating 4 different Gracies — Royler, Royce, Renzo and Ryan. Sakuraba turned 40 last year but still competes in DREAM. He’s won his last 2 bouts in DREAM with 1st round submissions. Perhaps the most beloved PRIDE fighter in Japan.
“The Fireball Kid” won his first 10 PRIDE fights and was 13-1 (1 NC) overall in his PRIDE career. He was the only lightweight champion PRIDE ever had. His overall MMA record stands at 31-5. Gomi will have his hands full when he makes his UFC debut against Kenny Florian on March 31 at UFC Fight Night.
Shogun took the world by storm by starting off with 8 straight victories in PRIDE, 7 of which came via (T)KO. He soccer kicked his way to victory against Rampage Jackson, knocked out Ricardo Arona, stomped through Akira Shoji and was the 2005 PRIDE middleweight tournament champion. Next up: Rua is expected to headline UFC 113 at the Bell Centre against Lyoto Machida.
Cro Cop may have seemed washed up in his recent UFC fights, but he was once one of the most feared men in PRIDE. He was the champion of PRIDE’s 2006 Open-Weight Grand Prix and was 17-4-2 overall. He beat Vovchanchyn, Coleman, Randleman, Sakuraba and Wanderlei Silva, to name a few. Cro Cop will battle Ben Rothwell at UFC 110.
Sakurai fought Takanori Gomi for the lightweight title in 2005. He lost that bout but was 8-3 in his PRIDE career. He defeated Jens Pulver, Shinya Aoki and Joachim Hansen en route to that title fight with Gomi, an impressive stretch of wins at the time, and still so today. Sakurai beat Aoki again in April of last year, but has lost his last 2 fights.
Rampage became one of the most exciting fighters in the world while battling in PRIDE. The slams, ground and pound and big knockouts all started there in Japan. Rampage ended his PRIDE career with a 12-5 record and beat such notables as Igor Vovchanchyn, Chuck Liddell, Murilo Bustamante, Kevin Randleman and more. Hopefully Rampage will focus on his MMA career again.