From the ashes of Pride Fighting Championships, rose Dream.
Being a fan of Japanese MMA, Dream seemed like heaven-sent, after Zuffa, owners of fighting promotions like Strikeforce and UFC, shut down Pride in 2007.
Several of the workers from the former Dream Stage Entertinament put together a New Year’s Eve show called “Yarennoka!”, promoting with several Japanese MMA organizations.
Although the show was intended to be a farewell to Pride, the show was successful enough for the Fighting and Entertainment Group staff and the Dream Stage Entertainment group to come together and form a new promotion in 2008.
After four years, of 23 events and eight grand prix tournaments. Dream has officially closed business operations.
According to a report by AsianMMA, Real Entertainment, the parent company of Dream, closed the promotion. Dream’s last show was “Fight For Japan: Genki Desu Ka Omisoko 2011”, which was co-promoted with Inoki Genome Federation (IGF) and M-1 Global. The event was headlined by a mixed martial arts bout between former Pride champion Fedor Emelianenko vs. Satoshi Ishii, an Olympic gold medalist in Judo.
Like Pride, Dream was known for its pageantry and style, grand prix tournaments and one of my favorite ring announcers Lenne Hardt, also known as the “Screaming Pride Lady.”
However Dream was more than just a Pride copycat. It would also be one of the first Japanese-based promotions to use the Unified Rules of MMA and use a caged fence in place of a ring.
Although fans of Pride may have shaken their heads at the idea, I think adapting these concepts is what helped it grow and separate itself from other MMA promotions.
The promotion showcased well-known Japanese fighters like Shinya Aoki, Hayato Sakurai and Kazushi Sakuraba. It also featured popular international fighters like Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Bibiano Fernandes and Joachim Hansen.
The first two years for Dream events showcased four grand prix tournaments: middleweight (Gegard Mousassi), lightweight (Hansen), featherweight (Fernandes) and welterweight (Marius Žaromskis). The winners of these tournaments would be recognized as the first Dream champions of their weight class.
In 2009, they added the Super Hulk tournament, won by Ikuhisa Minowa and light heavyweight grand prix, won by Mousassi. Dream would also crown their first heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem and hold events that featured traditional fight cards.
In addition to having their own events, Dream also co-promoted New Year’s Eve Dynamite!! shows with K-1 and IGF.
Dream, as well as other MMA promotions, were thought to be done when Japan was hit with severe earthquakes in March 2011. However, Dream would announce an eight-man bantamweight grand prix for their next event dubbed “Dream: Fight for Japan” that would feature all Japanese fighters.
Although the promotion may have been short lived, I have several fond memories of Dream:
Hideo Tokoro vs. Abel Cullum in Dream the featherweight tournament.
Fernandes winning Dream’s 2011 Grand Prix tournament, one year after losing the featherweight title to Hiroyuki Takaya.
“Mayhem” Miller dancing with Japanese school girls on his way to the ring, to which commentator Michael Schiavello to say,” God bless you Jason Miller you are living my fantasy.”
Although Dream is done, this is not the end of Japanese MMA. Promotions like Shooto, DEEP and Pancrase are still going, although they lack the pomp and pageantry that Dream had. Asian MMA also reported that the former management of Pride could once again come together sometime in 2014.
This would be one year after a restriction Zuffa had placed in the Pride buyout that preventing some of the former Pride management from getting back into MMA>
There are also promotions like One FC and dare I say it, Super Fight League that re also rising in popularity. Will they be as big as Pride or Dream? They will if they continue to grow.
Do you have a favorite Dream memory? Answer by commenting in the box below or send a tweet to @alstover with the hashtag #RantSportsMMA