Pride is truly the product of another era of MMA. It’s most successful years were during a time when it was largely inaccessible to North American audiences. Only those who were truly dedicated to finding the fights of mythical legends such as Kazushi Sakuraba, Mirko Cro Cop, or Fedor Emelianenko could do so. It could mean getting lucky at a local video store, having a friend with tapes, or finding a Japanese retailer – if one existed in your area.
Likewise, english language accounts of the promotion, especially from the time PRIDE was operating, are few and far between. Lee Daly, author of “Before a Fall: A History of Pride FC” saw this gap and worked to fill it. The book is a self-published, crowd-funded, comprehensive look at not just the chronology of a fight promotion, but a tale of the evolution of MMA from sports to entertainment and back again.
The title of the book likely comes from the turn of phrase “pride comes before a fall,” a loosely lifted Biblical proverb. It’s as appropriate a title as one could imagine for this book, as it is when the fall of Pride begins that Daly’s book becomes its most captivating.
Stories of Yakuza influence, bad business decisions, and of course the rise of UFC in North America all contributed to the fall of Pride and Daly is able to weave these stories into the book coherently while keeping it entertaining.
Daly’s choice to tell the story of Pride in a non-linear fashion pays off and fits the subject matter. Pride was as much about presentation and personalities as it was about fights – so to tell the story of Pride by simply recapping the events one at a time would fail to highlight the bigger picture. Instead, Daly focuses on a singular fighter, feud, or theme for a chapter and tells that story wholly. This allows readers to understand and appreciate the importance of Kazushi Sakuraba as it gives context to a future success such as Wanderlei Silva.
“Before a Fall” is self-published so there are rare instances of typos, but the brilliance of digital publishing is that these are easily fixed. Factually, Daly’s research was extensive and it shows. The book utilizes interviews with Pride competitors such as Josh Barnett or Bas Rutten to tell the stories of the promotion first hand and with historians such as the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, whose record-keeping and reporting of Pride as it was happening prove to be a valuable resource for fans and for Daly’s work. There are times when the book may lean too heavily on transcribed interview quotes in favor of paraphrasing, but there is something to be said to hearing the stories directly from the people who lived it.
Overall, “Before a Fall” is a must-own book for fans of modern mixed martial arts or professional wrestling. If you watched Pride as it happened, you will appreciate the backstory Daly gives to the promotion and its players as well as the detailed account of its downfall. For those who did not get to experience Pride in its heyday, the story told here is an important lesson as UFC continues to expand and walk the fine line that separates sport and spectacle.
“Before a Fall: A History of Pride FC” can be supported through Indiegogo and purchased at Amazon.