Looking Back on PRIDE in 2006 -Part 2-

In just a few short days, PRIDE will close out the year 2006 with PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2006 on New Year's Eve. 2006 was a roller-coaster year for PRIDE, full of dramatic turns both good and bad. New Year's Eve is a time to look back on the previous year and this year, PRIDE asked four Japanese martial arts magazine editors and the PRIDE girls to look back on the past year. In this second installment, we went to the Editor of the martial arts web magazine GBR, Hideyuki Kumakubo.

[Which event left the greatest impression on you this year?]
Event: July 4th PRIDE BUSHIDO 11

I was shocked when I saw the 16 fighters in the Welterweight Grand Prix and wondered if there has ever been such a difficult tournament. There were no "filler" fighters there, just filling out the card. I thought it was a tournament fitting to decide the strongest fighter in the world. There are arguments for both sides regarding the actual contents of the fights but, I was satisfied with the high-level of the fights and I had a good time. Even if the fight isn't flashy, you won't get bored if there's something in it worth watching. I think this was the most packed day of the year.

[Which fight left the greatest impression on you this year?]
Fight: Josh Barnett VS Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (September 10th PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix 2006 Final Round)

I'd like to get attention by saying Ikuhisa Minowa VS Mike Barton but there's no way I can't talk about the Barnett-Nogueira fight. It's relatively easy to get a large group of fans excited with striking but it's very difficult to generate cheers for a ground fight. Yet, the groundwork of these two fighters was white-hot, as if they were going to burst into flames. Mirko VS Silva was also incredibly good and when those two fights were over, I felt satisfied. I would have been happy to wait until the next event to see the rest.




[Which fighters left the greatest impression on you this year?]
Fighters: Paulo Filho

Filho's not flashy but he's tough and he was in the spotlight this year more than ever before. He is the fighter that proves strength is not enough to make someone popular. He's a World Champion in Brazilian jujitsu and he has gone undefeated since he became a mixed martial artist. He has eight wins in PRIDE alone. My impression of him is one of strength. If he had won the Grand Prix and had the Championship belt wrapped around his waist, his life probably would have changed but he withdrew (from the tournament due to injury). I can't help but feel that he will never shine more than he did this year.

[Which achievement left the greatest impression on you this year?]
Achievement: The return of Tachiki (PRIDE Video Narrator) and Sato (PRIDE Video Director)

The DSE Public Relations staff wrote this message on the white board in the Press Room: "Make sure you watch today's opening from inside the venue." I figured if they want us to be there so bad, it was must something good so I went inside the Yokohama Arena. The event was slow to start and I felt cheated but then Tachiki's voice rang out through the venue and the cheers were incredible when fans were told that Tachiki had returned to PRIDE. At the same time, they began playing the videos directed by Daisuke Sato. When I saw, and heard, the work of these two, I realized what a difference it makes when you have real professionals on the job.

[What are you looking forward to next year?]

The Lightweight Grand Prix. I think we're going to see something amazing. There are no other weight classes that are this packed and this exciting, are there? It was a good choice not to hold the tournament this year. It must be tough just narrowing it down to 16 fighters. I think the number of qualified fighters means that there will have to be qualification matches for the tournament. If the Lightweight Grand Prix is held next year, then next year will definitely become the year of the Lightweights. I want to see Lightweight fighters headlining cards like Fedor, Mirko and Silva. I want to taste back-to-back tension and exhilaration.