In the golden days, a chosen few stayed up all hours of the night trying to watch the premier Japanese MMA organization on glowing streams. This was a bygone era of soccer kicks, 10-minute rounds and that crazy lady who yelled a lot. The fighting world was split into two different groups: the Octagon and the ring and these factions still exist today.
Years after PRIDE's absorption into the UFC, hashtags and references always surface across social media. It still rings true that "PRIDE never dies." With iconic fights that gleam nostalgia and rekindle our love of the one true rule set, today is as good as any to dive back in.
Here are some of the Top 10 fights from PRIDE FC brought to you in their entirety.
10. Mark Hunt vs Yosuke Nishijima
This was one of those classic PRIDE mismatches. Nishijima was somehow convinced to fight Mark Hunt in his first ever MMA fight.
Despite being a professional boxer who held multiple cruiserweight titles, Nishijima couldn't do much to the "Super Samoan" at PRIDE 31 except hope his tired out. Hunt put on a striking clinic and even threw a crazy jumping head kick with the help of the ropes. This fight ends with Hunt's first walk-off KO in MMA.
9. Don Frye v.s. Yoshihiro Takayama
In the final seconds of the fight with Ricardo Lamas at UFC 199, Max Holloway pointed to the ground and both men uncorked bombs with reckless abandon. If you stretched out that 10 seconds into a whole bout, you'd get Frye's fight with Takayama at PRIDE 21.
Takayama's face turned into a bug-eyed alien from an Ultraman episode. Frye had his mouthpiece out for damn near the whole fight. It was bonkers 14 years ago and it is just as bonkers today.
8. Fedor v.s. Kevin Randleman
Going into this fight, Fedor already looked like an invincible, Russian juggernaut. However, Fedor's intimidated aura didn't seem to bother Kevin Randleman one bit.
At PRIDE Critical Countdown 2004, Randleman tried to murder "The Last Emperor." You'd think suffering from the most vicious slam in MMA history would've made him look human, but not a chance. Fedor famously got spiked on his head, gained side control on Randleman like nothing happened and submitted him.
7. Kazushi Sakuraba v.s. Royler Gracie
This predates those angry Cowboy Cerrone leg kicks that share a name with a CeeLo Green song.
Completely content on the ground with Royler, Sakuraba (and the audience) found it more entertaining to make the Gracie crab walk as he absolutely demoralized him with leg kicks. I bet Royler regretted demanding that no stand-up rule for PRIDE 8. Filled with signature unorthodox tactics and clowning, this was the first fight in an unofficial trilogy that earned Sakuraba the name Gracie Hunter.
6. Cro Cop v.s. Wanderlei Silva 2
Cro Cop's composed precision shined against Silva's berserker barrage at PRIDE Final Conflict Absolute. There was bad blood between these two frightening individuals -- blood which was shed that night. Cro Cop ended the feud with his vicious head kick. Right leg, hospital; left kick, cemetery.
On this same night, Cro Cop would defeat Josh Barnett finally becoming Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix Champion. After a huge outpouring of emotion from the career-defining moment, he gave this post-fight interview with Frank Trigg.
5. Fedor v.s. Kazuyuki Fujita
PRIDE 26 will forever be remembered as the day that Fedor first looked human.
Fedor walked into this fight with a win over Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and as the new PRIDE Heavyweight champion. On paper, Fujita didn't stand a chance. No one would have ever predicted that Ol' Ironhead Fujita would make Fedor do the funky chicken.
The usually reserved Japanese crowd erupted as the Russian deity wobbled like a newborn calf. Somehow, Fedor recovered and choked Fujita to earn the submission victory.
4. Rampage Jackson v.s. Wanderlei Silva 2
One thing is for sure, you put Rampage and Silva together and you'll get some wild exchanges.
In their fight before this one, Silva kneed Rampage 17 times in a row in the first round to win the PRIDE 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix. At PRIDE 28 they met again in a much more competitive fight.
Rampage almost got his revenge, but Silva eventually put another knee blitz on Rampage until he fell through the ropes and almost out of the ring.
3. Nick Diaz v.s. Takanori Gomi
At PRIDE 33, Nick Diaz fought PRIDE Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi in a bout of frantic chaos. Diaz was in trouble for most of the first round, but then turned up that patented, drowning boxing. Gomi was gassed and in trouble.
Diaz infamously came out in the second round saying "come on, bitch," dissected Gomi like a Stockton surgeon and submitted him with the second gogoplata in PRIDE history.
The huge win was ruled to a no-contest after Diaz scored an impressive 175 on the THC test. The NSAC threshold for a positive was 50. Homie was lit.
2. Kazushi Sakuraba v.s. Royce Gracie
This is MMA's Iron Man match. Royce Gracie tries to avenge his brother's defeat at the hands of Sakuraba in the Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals. The rules were changed to unlimited rounds and no referee stoppages resulting in the longest fight in PRIDE history.
Sakuraba increased his tactics tenfold since the Royler fight and actually broke Royce's femur from leg kicks. The antics in this fight are peak Sakuraba, the highlight being turning Royce's gi against him to embarrassing and sometimes funny effect.
At 15 minutes of the sixth round, the Gracie family threw in the towel and Sakuraba becomes the first person to beat Royce. Wrestling Observer Newsletter awarded this Fight of the Year.
1. Fedor v.s. Cro Cop
PRIDE Final Conflict 2005 most likely put on the best heavyweight fight of all time. It was a truly rare crescendo of MMA with two of the very best, in their prime, fighting each other at exactly the right time. It did not disappoint.
After a grueling back-and-forth war, Cro Cop faded and Fedor began to take over to win the decision. It's a fight that must be seen if you haven't, and a fight always worth revisiting no matter how many times it has been viewed.