Pride FC (Pride Fighting Championships) was a Japanese-based MMA promotion that operated from 1997 to 2007 and featured some of the best fighters in the world. While the UFC is considered the premier MMA promotion today, there were many talented fighters who never had the opportunity to compete in the UFC for a belt due to various circumstances.
In this article, we will take a look at five Pride FC fighters who could have been UFC champions, if given the opportunity. These fighters are some of the most memorable and skilled competitors to have ever stepped into the ring, or cage, and their legacies will always be remembered in the world of MMA.
1. Fedor Emelianenko
Considered by many to be the greatest heavyweight MMA fighter of all time, Fedor Emelianenko dominated the Pride FC heavyweight division from 2003 to 2007, winning the Pride FC Heavyweight Championship and defending it three times. With a record of 40-6, 1 NC, Fedor was known for his exceptional striking, grappling, and overall versatility in the ring. He was able to defeat some of the best fighters in the world, including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Cro Cop, and Mark Coleman. Despite his impressive record and accolades, Fedor never had the chance to compete in the UFC due to contract disputes and other issues.
2. Igor Vovchanchyn
A Ukrainian mixed martial artist and former kickboxer, Igor Vovchanchyn was a dominant force in the Pride FC heavyweight division and had a record of 56-10-1. Vovchanchyn was known for his powerful striking and impressive finishing ability, with many of his victories coming by way of knockout or TKO. He was able to defeat some of the top fighters in the world, including Enson Inoue, Mark Kerr, and Renato Sobral. Despite his impressive record and skills, Vovchanchyn never had the opportunity to compete in the UFC.
3. Kazushi Sakuraba
A pioneer of Japanese MMA and a fan favorite, Kazushi Sakuraba was known for his unorthodox style and submission skills. With a record of 26-17-1, 2 NC Sakuraba won the Pride FC Middleweight Grand Prix and had memorable matches against top fighters such as Royce Gracie, Renzo Gracie, and Quinton Jackson. He was able to defeat several high-level opponents, including Royce Gracie in a historic bout that lasted over 90 minutes.
Prior to competing in Pride FC, Sakuraba began his career in professional wrestling with Kingdom Pro Wrestling. And as a last minute replacement he fought in the UFC against Marcus Silveira who was 60 pounds heavier at the begining of his MMA career. Sakuraba’s bravery and determination in the face of such a difficult challenge cemented his reputation as a fierce fighter. He then followed fellow wrestler Nobuhiko Takada to Pride FC, where he went on to become a fan favorite and one of the promotion’s most successful fighters and never fought in the UFC again.
4. Shinya Aoki
A Japanese mixed martial artist and former Shooto Welterweight Champion, Shinya Aoki was a dominant force in the Pride FC lightweight division and had a record of 47-11, 1 NC. Aoki was known for his exceptional grappling skills and submission ability, with many of his victories coming by way of submission. He was able to defeat several top opponents, including Gilbert Melendez, Eddie Alvarez, and Tatsuya Kawajiri.
5. Joachim Hansen
A Norwegian mixed martial artist and former professional kickboxer, Joachim Hansen was a dominant force in the Shooto,Dream and the Pride FC lightweight division. With a record of 23-14-1, Hansen was known for his striking skills and impressive finishes.
In addition to being a Shooto champion, Hansen also won the Pride FC 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix, solidifying his place as one of the top lightweight fighters in the world.
Hansen scored impressive wins over a number of top opponents, including Rumina Sato, Takanori Gomi, JZ Cavalcante, Caol Uno, Imanari, Yves Edwards, Luis Azeredo, and Shinya Aoki. These victories demonstrated Hansen’s striking skills and impressive finishing ability, as well as his versatility in the ring. His success in Japan cemented his reputation as a top-level fighter and a formidable competitor in the lightweight division.
The Pride FC promotion featured some of the most talented and skilled mixed martial artists in the world. Fedor Emelianenko, Igor Vovchanchyn, Kazushi Sakuraba, Shinya Aoki, and Joachim Hansen were all dominant forces in the Pride FC ring and could have potentially been UFC champions if given the opportunity. Each of these fighters had impressive records and skills that would have made them formidable opponents in the UFC. While it is unfortunate that they never had the chance to compete in the premier MMA promotion, their legacies will always be remembered.
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