UFC vs Pride 2003, Japan, August – November 2003

ufc-vs-pride-2003Full fight videos including commentary from Dana White as well as history of UFC vs Pride 2003. Chuck Liddell enters the Pride 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix against the top Pride fighters at the time.

By 2003, Pride had established itself as the premier MMA promotion in the world. Pride had most of the legendary fighters of today including the Nogueira brothers, Fabricio Werdum, Wanderlei Silva, Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, Alistair Overeem and many more. The UFC also had their own stable of legends including Randy Couture, Frank Mir, Matt Hughes, Sean Sherk, Frank Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, and Chuck Liddell. Both of these organizations had put on incredible events drawing crowds and building the sport of MMA.

Even though Pride was the leading MMA promotion at the time, the UFC and Pride were on an inevitable collision course. Having UFC fighters compete against Pride fighters would have been a fight fans ultimate fantasy come true. Not only would the fights be exciting, but this would also be a great marketing opportunity for the UFC. Pride fighters were considered the best in the world. With the UFC putting their fighters against the Pride fighters, win or lose it would be a great marketing campaign to promote the UFC and the quality of UFC fighters. Dana White had spent a good amount of time and effort campaigning for a UFC vs Pride show down. This would be a fight for the Pride Middleweight Championship between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva.

Click and scroll to watch Chuck Liddell represent UFC in UFC vs Pride 2003

Wanderlei Silva at the time was at the top of his career with a record of 23-3-1. He had established himself as the most menacing fighter in Pride and defeated Kazushi Sakuraba in 2001 for the Pride Middleweight Championship. Wanderlei Silva had fought in previous UFC events but suffered loses against Tito Ortiz and Vitor Belfort.

Chuck Liddell at the time had a record of 12-2. Going into the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament, Chuck Liddell had recently lost the Interim Light Heavyweight Title to Randy Couture. However Chuck Liddell had incredible wins against Pride fighters such as Guy Mezger and Murilo Bustamante.

A fight between Wanderlei Silva and Chuck Liddell would have been an incredible match up, comparing the best of UFC with the best of Pride. A true UFC vs Pride event. The perfect opportunity for setting up this fight came in 2003.

In 2003, Pride held their Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament. It would feature most of Prides star fighters at the time. These fighters included Alistair Overeem, Rampage Jackson, Murilo Bustamante, Hidehiko Yoshida, Kiyoshi Tamara, Wanderlei Silva, and Kazushi Sakuraba. The quarter finals of the tournament would take place in August 2003. The semi-final and final rounds would take place in November 2003. The UFC could enter a representative into the tournament to fight against the Middleweight elite of Pride and show the MMA world that the UFC was a world class MMA promotion.

In the quarter finals, Chuck Liddell was scheduled to fight Alistair Overeem while Wanderlei Silva was scheduled against Kazushi Sakuraba. Although a just and rightful match up for the Middleweight Grand Prix. Wanderlei Silva had previously defeated Kazushi Sakuraba twice and most likely at this time had his number.

If Chuck Liddell won against Alistair Overeem, he would fight against the winner of Rampage Jackson and Murilo Bustamante. Chuck had previously defeated Murilo Bustamante at UFC 33. However the exciting match up would be Rampage Jackson against Chuck Liddell. Especially after the announcement Rampage Jackson made during the pre-tournament press conference, declaring that he would be the only American to prevail in the tournament and that in a world of UFC vs Pride, Pride was “Ichiban”.

Alas, in this 2003 tournament, a fight between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva was not to be. However Chuck Liddell’s journey through the tournament is still an exciting one where we see the UFC make it’s mark in the MMA world. The best of UFC put his heart and skills against the best of Pride. Although he did not become the Pride Middleweight champion, he won a spot in the hearts of fight fans around the world. At the same time, Chuck Liddell provided the UFC with the marketing promotional push they were looking for.

UFC vs Pride: Chuck Liddell’s journey through the tournament

Below are Chuck Liddell’s fights in the 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament. The full fight videos include interviews and commentary from Dana White who gives special insight to Chuck Liddell’s preparation for the tournament.

UFC vs Pride Quarter finals – Chuck Liddell vs Alistair Overeem

UFC vs Pride Semi Finals – Chuck Liddell vs Rampage Jackson