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UFC should bring back grand prix championship tournaments

Whenever I watch highlight videos of fighters like Wanderlei Silva, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Fedor Emelienanko, half of the comments on the page are from fans who miss the days of Pride Fighting Championships.

Many MMA fans remember the Japanese-based fighting organization, that was absorbed by the UFC in 2007,  for its pageantry, its wide range of fighters and Lenne Hardt, who is affectionately known as the “Screaming Pride Lady.”

Another concept that was unique to Pride were its grand prix tournaments that were spread throughout the year. These tournaments featured past superstars as well as rising prospects. It has been six years since the last Pride grand prix and the UFC should bring these kinds of tournaments back.

Everyone has their favorite Pride grand prix moments such as Kevin Randleman knocking out Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic in the first round of the  2004 heavyweight tournament, Maurico ‘Shogun’ Rua’s war with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the quarterfinals of the 2005 middleweight grand prix and the 90-minute battle between Royce Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba in quarterfinals of the 2000 open weight tournament.

After Pride ended, Dream, another Japanese-based organization held their own grand prix tournaments, however they ceased their business operations back in June. Other organizations have held tournaments, yet viewership was only limited to Japanese television and live audiences.

Although these tournaments remain a distant memory, the UFC could benefit from putting on tournaments on pay per view or their televised events.

Although UFC President Dana White has been vocal about not being a fan of tournament-style fights, the early days of the UFC were comprised of openweight tournaments, and later divided into heavyweight and lightweight tournaments. These tournaments helped launch the careers of many UFC legends including Randy Couture, Dan Severn and Vitor Belfort.

Now the UFC does still have tournaments. The reality show “The Ultimate Fighter” features one or two season-long tournaments where the finals are held on the season finale. The finals of the UFC Flyweight championship tournament, which began in March, will end at UFC 152. Strikeforce has also held three tournaments in the past, the most recent being their World Heavyweight Grand Prix  in 2011, before they were purchased by Zuffa.

Having one or two annual grand prix tournaments outside of “The Ultimate Fighter” could help establish new faces who enter the UFC. It also gives fighters who have been a lot of experience in the octagon something to fight for, as well as a stepping stone towards a UFC world title.

Rather than cancel UFC 151 because of the scrapped main event and lack of an overall strong card, they could have pulled together the 10 lightweight fighters who were supposed to competing on the card and set up what could be the first-round of the “2012 UFC Lightweight Grand Prix tournament.” The next round could have taken place at a fight card in Janurary 2013 while having the finals in the spring.

If a champion becomes injured and will be out for nine months, the UFC could put on a 16-man grand prix to determine the number one contender, rather than have an interim championship.

Would you like to see championship tournaments return to the UFC? Answer in the comments section or send me a tweet to @alstover with your answer including the hashtag #RantMMA