There was something truly special about Pride Fighting Championships. The crowds, the arenas, the rules, the pageantry, the fighters — Pride was an experience unlike anything the UFC could ever replicate.

From their first event in October 1997 to their final event in April 2007, Pride rivaled the UFC and challenged them for MMA supremacy. Still today, Pride is the only organization to ever really challenge the UFC’s dominance and there was actually a good stretch of time when Pride was viewed as the better of the two organizations.

Pride had a completely different look and feel than that of the UFC, and they had a roster of truly great fighters who would throw caution to the wind to get the win inside of the ring. Fighters who competed in Pride had a mystique and aura about them that fighters for other organizations just didn’t have and still really don’t have.

10 – Igor Vovchanchyn

Igor Vovchanchyn is one of the most underrated all-time greats; 38 of his 55 career wins came by way of knockout. Vovchanchyn’s Pride record was 18-8, 1 NC and he held wins over Yuki Kondo, Gilbert Yvel, Mark Kerr, and Gary Goodridge. Before Cro Cop, Vovchanchyn was the most feared striker in the Pride ring.

9 – Mark Coleman

Mark Coleman’s record of 8-5 inside the Pride ring is not overly impressive when you just look at the number, but when you dig in to it you see that Coleman truly solidified his “Legend” status in Pride after his first run with the UFC. In 2000, Coleman shocked the MMA world by winning three fights in one night to win the Pride FC 2000 Openweight Grand Prix. Coleman may not be the first fighter that comes to mind when you think of Pride, but that doesn’t mean he was anything less than great.

8 – Mauricio Rua

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua is a legendary figure in MMA today, and that legend was born in Pride where he went 12-1 and won the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. 10 of Rua’s 12 Pride victories came by way of stoppage and no one in Pride used soccer kicks and stops better than Rua. During his run through Pride, Rua was considered to be the best 205 pound fighter in the world.

7 – Mirko Filipovic

In an era where wrestlers neutralized strikers by bringing them to the ground, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic was a head kick knockout machine. With elite takedown defense, great balance, and incredible striking, Filipovic showed just how effective elite kickboxing could be in the world of MMA. Filipovic was never able to capture the Pride heavyweight title; coming up short on two occasions, but in 2006 Filipovic cemented his legacy by winning the 2006 Pride Openweight Grand Prix, defeating Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett in the same evening.

6 – Takanori Gomi

“The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi was one of the most dominant lightweight fighters in the world and he was the only person to ever hold the Pride lightweight title. Gomi’s high octane approach and unorthodox striking made him a fan favorite because you knew that when you watched Gomi fight you were about to see something special.

5 – Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was the first ever Pride heavyweight champion and he went an impressive 17-3, 1 NC in the Pride ring. Nogueira was known for his toughness and brilliant BJJ; he could absorb an incredible about of punishment before capitalizing on the smallest opening to submit his opponents. Nogueira went to war numerous times in Pride and no matter how much damage he took, he kept pushing forward to win.

4 – Dan Henderson

Dan Henderson wasn’t the best fighter in the Pride era nor was he the most dominant, but he did do something no one else accomplished in Pride: Henderson held the Pride welterweight title and the Pride middleweight title when the organization was bought by Zuffa. To win one title is a huge accomplishment, to win two is extraordinary — to win two and hold them simultaneously is something unique to Henderson.

3 – Kazushi Sakuraba

For all intents and purposes, Kazushi Sakuraba was Pride; he embodied what the organization was all about and he was great. Sakuraba’s walk-outs alone would have put him on the list, but it was his skill inside the ring that separates him from the pack. 18-7-1 isn’t a record that will blow anyone away but every fight he was in was spectacular to watch.

2 – Wanderlei Silva

One of my favorite expressions in sports is “go big or go home” and that is exactly what made Wanderlei “The Axe Murder” Silva so great during his time in Pride. Silva’s fierce and violent style made him an instant fan favorite and his nearly six year run as Pride middleweight champion made him a legend. Two of Silva’s four Pride losses came in openweight bouts against men much larger than he.

1 – Fedor Emelianenko

When it comes to greatness in the world of MMA, few can compare to Fedor Emelianenko and when it comes to Pride, he was the greatest hands down. Emelianenko never lost in the Pride ring; he was hurt several times and challenged often, but no one could beat him. When it came to style Emelianenko was the anti-Pride fighter; he didn’t have the personality a Sakuraba or a Quinten Jackson had, he was kind of boring, to be honest. But while his personality was vanilla, his stoic face and calm demeanor gave him an aura and mystique unlike anyone on the sport’s history.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.

  • Anon

    Rampage?How could you miss…