Legends: The Five Greatest Fighters from Pride FC


With the recent resurgence of Pride FC veterans Wanderlei Silva and Mark Hunt, I’ve been thinking back to the hay days of the now defunct Japanese MMA promotion. The organization had most of the best fighters in the world fighting under one banner, and what I loved the most about Pride was the high paced, non-stop action.

During the Pride era many fighters made their names through highlight reel knockouts, huge slams, crazy antics and incredible back and forth fights. I’ve compiled a list of my five favorite Pride FC era fighters and my reasoning behind my choices.

1.Fedor Emelianenko

Fedor’s reign of dominance during his time in Pride was a sight to behold. The Pride heavyweight champion had a trademark style of swinging for the fences with total distain for his opponent without showing a hint of emotion. ‘The Last Emperor’ had compiled a record of 27-1(1) by the time Pride went under, and many had Fedor at the top of their pound for pound list, and for good reason. Fedor’s list of Pride opponents reads like a who’s who of MMA. During his four years in Pride FC Fedor faced and defeated Semmy Schilt, Heath Herring, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Coleman, Cro Cop, Mark Hunt and Kevin Randleman to name a few. My all time favorite Fedor moment was when he was suplexed by Randleman on to his head and still won the match by submission.

2.Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filopovic

How can you not love ‘Cro Cop’ for all the amazing action he bought to Pride FC? His K-1 level striking was the best in all of MMA during his time in Pride, earning him a record of 18-4-1(1) overall in Pride. My all time favorite Cro Cop moment was when the Croatian knocked out Aleksander Emelianenko with a trademark head kick, then called out Fedor to set up their fight of the year match in 2005. Cro Cop’s only losses in pride came to Fedor, Kevin Randleman, Mark Hunt and ‘Big Nog’. His notable victories include Mark Coleman, Josh Barnett (three times), Kazushi Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva, Kevin Randleman, Igor Vovchanchyn and Ikuhisa Minowa.

3.Wanderlei Silva

Between 1999 and 2004 no man was able to defeat Wand in Pride. His dominance was truly awesome to watch, as well as very brutal. Silva’s style is best described as a Muay Thai brawler. The Brazilian won the Pride middleweight championship with a TKO victory over Kazushi Sakuraba in 2001 and held the title until Dan Henderson took it from him six years later. Silva’s reign of terror in Pride was long and bloody, his list of victims includes Sakuraba (three times), Quinton Jackson (twice), Dan Henderson, Guy Mezger, Kazuyuki Fujita and Ricardo Arona. My all time favorite ‘Axe Murderer’ moment is when he left Quinton Jackson hanging unconscious through the bottom rope after a series of brutal knees to the face.

4.Mauricio Rua

‘Shogun’ had possibly the most exciting style in all of Pride. He had flashy kicks, Jiu-Jitsu, he was powerful, had good boxing and strong ground and pound. Rua won the Pride middleweight grand prix with a first round knockout of Ricardo Arona. ‘Shogun’ also defeated Alistair Overeem (twice), Quinton Jackson, Cyrille Diabate, Akihiro Gono and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira during his time in Pride. My all time favorite Rua moment was his incredible slugfest with ‘Lil Nog’ at the gp quarterfinals in 2005.

5.Takanori Gomi

‘The Fireball Kid’ was an incredible fighter in the Pride era. He holds the fastest KO in Pride history, a six second destruction of Ralph Gracie, and won the lightweight championship with a KO victory over Hayato Sakurai. Gomi was only beaten once during his time in Pride FC by Marcus Aurelio, a loss which Gomi avenged the same year. Gomi also beat David Baron, Jens Pulver, Jean Silva and Tatsuya Kawajiri during his time in Pride FC. My favorite Gomi moment was his brutal knockout of Luiz Azeredo at Pride Bushido 7 in 2005.

Honorable mention also goes to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, ‘Hellboy’ Hansen, Kazuyuki Fujita, Kazushi Sakuraba, Mark Hunt and Rampage Jackson.



  • Oh, the memories!!!

    • I didn't know of Pride until it was dying but looking back it must have been epic. My favorite fight was Carlos Newton and Sakuraba. Brilliant!

    • SAKURABA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I'd rate Minotauro Nogueira ahead of CroCop, simply because he submitted him via armbar in their fight and I think he had a superior win record. Nonetheless everyone of the fighters named in the article is a true legend of the sport.

    • I think officially you are right, nogueira was the better fighter as far as achievements , but cro cop for me is the far more exciting fighter. I'm a big bjj fan , but i love muay thai and kickboxing

      • I'd have Minotauro Nogueira ahead of him as well. Perhaps a 6th spot would have been better.

        • you called it underdog, my next list will have six 😉

          • No problem, Rory. By the way, I wasn't trying to criticize your article either.

          • no its all good, it was a serious toss up for me between big nog and gomi, but again i just find gomi so much more fun to watch

          • WHERE IS BOB SAPP!!???!!??

  • Nick Diaz talks a lot of nonsense but he is definitely right about Pride being more action oriented where ufc's structure highly favours wrestlers. Prides ring set up is good for strikers and the refs wouldnt let someone hold a guy down for 15 minutes without much action. Then theres the 10 minute first round on top of that.

    These fighters listed werent just winners but were all highly entertaining!

    • Wrestling can be done with action but all too often is not. I would be favor of the yellow card in the UFC.

      • it should be a pink card though

    • @highkick Pride was more set up for excitement, which in turn means it was set up to make it easier on guys who weren't well rounded.

      It is a complete lie to say the UFC favours wrestlers, it simply gives the wrestlers a fair chance, which you noted that Pride did not.

      It's quite a coincidence that only guys who lose to wrestlers complain about wrestling.
      Fighters like JDS, Machida and Aldo prove that the UFC's structure isn't the reason wrestlers are successful, it is because of guys like Nick who haven't worked enough on specifically preparing for wrestlers or they just don't have the skill.. just the same as some guys will never be great strikers.

  • Personally I would take Gomi out and replace him with someone like Minotauro Nogueira, Hendo, Rampage or Sakuraba.

    Gomi was obviously the best lightweight but from the best of the organisation, for me he doesn't cut it.
    Winning is great and a huge win streak is even better but when talking about the best of the best, level of competition needs to be taken in to account.

    All the guys on this list could be argued as the best in the world at their weight class (Mirko was second to Fedor, still within Pride) except from Gomi, BJ was always ahead of him.
    Hendo, Saku and Rampage where constantly fighting the best competition the world had to offer while Gomi was fighting the best in the organisation, not the world.

    Not taking anything away from Gomi, just giving extra credit to others.

    • @Keith….I'm glad someone mentioned Sakuraba. He wiped out the Gracie family.

  • It would be interesting to see a WEC version of this, seeing as most of the probable WEC top 5 are now at the top of the UFC

  • Why no Paulo Filhio and Kazhushi Sakuraba? Paulo Filhio was undefeated in pride untill Sonnen.

  • id pic Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira over Gomi

  • Mirko Filipovi?.. Not Filopovich..

  • Even with how exciting he was, Cro Cop wouldn't make my list. Terrible losses at random points (Randleman, Hunt). Loss to the best guys in the HW division. Only became a champ when Fedor didn't compete, and Josh Barnett squeaked a SD against Nog (which was rectified shortly thereafter).

    5.Saku- Legend. SIngle handedly ended the Gracie dominance.
    6.Mirko just misses out.

  • Even with how exciting he was, Cro Cop wouldn't make my list. Terrible losses at random points (Randleman, Hunt). Loss to the best guys in the HW division. Only became a champ when Fedor didn't compete, and Josh Barnett squeaked a SD against Nog (which was rectified shortly thereafter).

    5.Saku- Legend. SIngle handedly ended the Gracie dominance.
    6.Nog & Mirko just miss out*