UFC boss says he didn't kill off Pride fight circuit

JOSE RODRIGUEZ, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:27 AM ET

TOKYO - Dear Japan,

I did not kill PRIDE fighting championship. Please don’t hate me.

Love,

Dana White

Maybe it wasn’t quite that succinct.

But UFC President Dana White wanted to be clear that the legendary Japanese fight club would have met its end whether the UFC bought it or not.

“You can’t blame me for it,” White told a gathering of more than 100 Japanese and international media at the Tokyo Ritz-Carlton Thursday.

“Pride had problems long before we got involved.”

The UFC purchased Pride — at the time, its chief rival and considered by many the top MMA outfit on the planet — in 2007 and planned to continue to run the promotion in Japan. It met resistance from the Japanese establishment in getting venues and permits.

That and the lingering allegations the Yakuza — the Japanese mob — had its tentacles in the fight club forced the UFC into submission.

Shortly after the purchase, the UFC dissolved Pride and brought the bulk of its top fighters — including Wanderlei Silva, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Dan Henderson — over to the UFC.

White, who attended Pride shows while the fight club was in its heyday, said he’s always been a fan.

“Pride is the only other organization that I actually respected,” said White.

“They did huge sellout shows. It’s the only other fighting organization I respected or given credit to.”

One Japanese media outlet suggested White was unpopular in Japan and is seen by many as the gunman in Pride’s assasination.

There were suggestions that if his face came on the big screen during the UFC 144 event here Sunday, it’d likely be met with boos.

“Ahhh, so you’re saying I’m not very popular here?” White laughed.

“I can take the boos. We didn’t kill Pride. If I get booed, I can handle it. I can take it. I’m pretty thick-skinned.”

White stressed the UFC’s return to Japan for its first event in nearly a dozen years and the first time since he took over is not a nostalgia tour.

There will be no trip down memory lane.

“UFC isn’t as big as Pride is here in Japan,” he admitted.

“But I know what we’re going to do Sunday, and I know it’s going to help spread the word about UFC in Japan.”

He kaiboshed any plans to have a UFC card with all former Pride fighters.

“I think those days are gone,” White said.

White said it was time to usher in the era of the UFC on the Japanese fight scene, and as far as he’s concerned, the show’s already a success.

“We’ve sold 20,000. The venue holds 22,000. It’ll be a sellout by Sunday,” White said.

UFC 144, featuring a lightweight title match between champ Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson, goes Sunday in Japan but airs in Canada during normal pay-per-view times Saturday night.


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