UFC revives Pride days at Saitama Super Arena

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Minota submits Cro Cop in Saitama, in a Pride classic. Photo: Susumu Nagao.

Since the beginning, UFC president Dana White has been saying the promotion will return to Japan. And now there’s a date for that to happen; it’ll be on February 26 at the traditional Saitama Super Arena. In 1997, the UFC bought Pride FC, which sealed the fate of the Japanese organization that made history early in the century. Since then, despite MMA still having a passionate following in the Land of the Rising Sun, the sport has been on a decline in the country. Could an event from the UFC change that story around?

Whether it happens or not, it’s still too early to know. But the formula UFC parent company Zuffa has come up with for the event seeks to identify with Pride lovers. It should be a nostalgic night.

At the post-UFC Rio press conference, Rodrigo Minotauro, who fought for the first time ever in Brazil, commented on a possible return to Japan, the place where he was catapulted into stardom.

“Now it’s time to rest, and – who knows? – maybe I’ll get to fight February in Japan,” said Mino.

Besides Minotauro, other stars from the late Pride FC event may put in appearances, such as Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop and Quinton Jackson. Of course, there are plenty of Japanese fighters on the UFC roster who could see action, like Yushin Okami, Hatsu Hioki, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Takanori Gomi and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto.

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