Top rivalries in MMA tend to be associated with Gracie-Sakuraba, Emelianenko-Nogueria, Chute Boxe-Brazilian Top Team and so on. The aforementioned competitors touch on just a handful of feuds that helped revolutionize and drive the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. However, not all major MMA rivalries involve two combatants and their camps. Here is one of five rivalries you may not immediately consider when debating MMA.
Dream Stage Entertainment vs. Shukan Gendai
It may be hard to believe that a tabloid magazine could be responsible for bringing down Japan’s premiere MMA organization. However, in 2006 Shukan Gendai (a weekly Japanese tabloid) ran monthly negative campaigns aimed toward Dream Stage Entertainment, PRIDE FC’s parent company.
DSE had been accused of having ties with the Japanese mafia, the Yakuza. Following the allegations, Dream Stage Entertainment’s reputation in the court of public opinion and in the media had been soiled.
Fuji TV, PRIDE’s home network which also came under fire in the reports, cut ties with DSE amongst allegations of Yakuza ties to DSE. While President and CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara adamantly denied these allegations, Fuji Television still decided to distance themselves from DSE by terminating their three year contract.
PRIDE did state they would file a criminal complaint against Shukan Gendai. However, nothing materialized from those threats and PRIDE found itself stuck in between a rock and a hard place with the bad press nearly crippling them.
With Fuji Television out of the picture, PRIDE lost a huge portion of its financial backing. The Shukan Gendai reports had a domino effect on DSE from that point on. After Fuji TV terminated their contract, Sky Perfect TV! became PRIDE’s new television network, relations with PRIDE U.S.A President Ed Fishman deteriorated into a lawsuit and any hopes of expanding PRIDE into the states were no longer plausible.
The war of words in the media appeared to come to a close on March 27th, 2007 and DSE sold PRIDE to ZUFFA LLC. The company that PRIDE had battled with for ten years became their new owner. In 2005, PRIDE appeared to be on top of the MMA heap and within two years they fell off the mountain and never recovered.
Typically in MMA rivalries the fans come out the winners. In this case, the fans were just one of the losers. Shukan Gendai became the driving force and subsequent victor behind PRIDE’s fall from grace. However, PRIDE became damaged goods following ZUFFA’s acquisition of the company.
Dana White claimed a TV deal in Japan would not be possible due in part to PRIDE’s smeared reputation. The tabloid continued to kick DSE and Fuji TV while they were down, not wanting to let up on the irresponsibility and poor judgment made by DSE and Fuji TV’s handling of PRIDE FC during its existence.
While the PRIDE and UFC promotional clash will forever be regarded as a golden period in MMA lore, it ended prematurely. What would be the moral of this story Never underestimate the power of the media. DSE certainly did not merely shrug off the negative press, they just couldn’t do enough damage control to save their sinking ship.
Editor’s note: This article is part one of a five-part series entitled: Histoic MMA Rivalries written by PRO MMA staff writer and host of THE INFO podcast, Matt De La Rosa. To view parts two through five of this series go HERE.
-Matt De La Rosa