Even UFC President Dana White has admitted that the now defunct Japanese promotion PRIDE was the largest event in MMA in the early part of this decade. A look back at the early PRIDE events by people who followed the scene at that time think of PRIDE 9 as one of the weaker events in the history of the company. PRIDE was coming off their 2000 Grand Prix earlier that year, and PRIDE 9 was a show that gave a lot of the core talent a rest. The organization called the show ‘NEW BLOOD’ and several talents were unearthed that day. The event was also marred by an incident behind the scenes that definitely put fighting into perspective.
As a testament to PRIDE, the card still had a lot of talent, with four fighters booked who had held or would go on to hold UFC title belts (Vitor Belfort, Matt Serra, Carlos Newton and Ricco Rodriguez). Veteran Igor Vovchanchin appeared on the card, and Heavyweight Heath Herring was making his debut into the big time of the sport. A host of other veterans that were relevant at the time included Lion’s Den fighters Vernon ‘Tiger’ White and Tra Telligman, Brazilian stand outs Carlos Barreto, Johil DeOliveira and Allan Goes, and Canadian veteran Gary Goodridge. In the era of pre-Zuffa UFC, it was certainly considered a stronger card than the UFC was booking at the time.
The matches that day were a little flat, and there is a reason. A look at the results from PRIDE 9 doesn’t really tell the whole story.
The first fight that was booked for that night was Renzo Gracie ace student Matt Serra against Brazilian veteran Johil DeOliveira. Due to a very serious accident, the match never happened.
Matt Serra was introduced first, and he was standing in the ring when it happened. DeOliveira was ready to come out and he was waiting for the show production to finish before starting his walk to the ring. The production included fireworks. By some failure in communication, DeOliveira stood in the wrong spot and was severely burned by the fireworks display. Serra stood uncomfortably in the ring, but was forced to vacate it quickly.
The production of the event moved forward, and the next fight was introduced – Heath Herring versus Dutch veteran Willie Peeters. Herring made short work of Peeters, taking him out with a rear naked choke in less than one minute.
Peeters was using the same ring entrance as DeOliveira, who was by now on his way to the hospital. Peeters said after the match ‘I could not really fight. When I was walking to the ring, I could smell the burnt flesh. It was disturbing.’
The matches from there went as expected, with no surprises and no truly stand out moments. DeOliveira would return to appear in three more PRIDE events afterwards. On the day of PRIDE 9 however, the event continued with a weight cast over it. It shows on the tapes!
Periodically I will look back at some of the old PRIDE events, since it really appears that the UFC is under using that portion of their catalog.