The future of PRIDE Fighting Championships has been the talk of the MMA world lately. The promotion lost television support in their homeland of Japan last year, and ever since the fans have been frantically following any updates floating around the internet regarding the future of their favorite mixed-martial arts organization.
The company has since attempted to secure a spot in the American MMA market, producing their second live U.S. based show last month at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The show is already considered the show of the year and the card which produced the single best fight of 2007 thus far between Nick Diaz and Takanori Gomi.
In this exclusive multi-part, thirty-plus minute interview, PRIDE Vice President Jerry Millen discusses a number of PRIDE related topics with MMANews.com's own Luis Cruz. Below is part one of the transcript. Check out MMANews.com again tomorrow (Thursday, March 8th) for the next installment.
Luis Cruz of MMANews.com: This is Luis Cruz of MMANews.com. I'm joined by PRIDE …I don't know what your official title would be. Should we call you producer?
Jerry Millen: Dude, I am …you name it. I'm a fan of MMA and I'm trying to bring it to ya. I'm officially the Vice President of PRIDE, which comes with many titles.
MMANews.com: Vice President of PRIDE, Jerry Millen. Now, actually I didn't even know you had that role yet. I thought you were just the main producer. Did you get promoted?
Jerry Millen: Yeah. Yeah yeah.
MMANews.com: Was this recently?
Jerry Millen: In the past couple of months, yeah.
MMANews.com: Oh I actually didn't know that one. I guess congratulations first on that.
Jerry Millen: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah, it's all good man. Whatever helps PRIDE and whatever we can do to put PRIDE where it belongs – I'm for it.
MMANews.com: We'll be talking all about that. Let me go ahead and warn you first. I took a bunch of questions from all the major MMA forums and kind of put together a fan interview.
Jerry Millen: That's cool. Nah, that's cool. Bring it, ya know? Whatever you got – bring it.
MMANews.com: I don't know if you go to the forums a lot – you don't have a lot of fans [laughs] as far as…
Jerry Millen: …well, you know what Luis? You gotta look at it like – a lot of 15 year olds have computers and everybody has an opinion. Normally when you're doing a good job, the people who think you're doing a good job don't say anything. Then the people who maybe don't know what they're talking about will give you all the negativity that you can take. So that's how I look at it. But I welcome it all man.
MMANews.com: There are some negative people out there that …
Jerry Millen: …of course, anything you do. Whenever you're in the public eye, you're always gonna get criticized. Always. I've been in the public eye for a long time.
MMANews.com: I understand that. So I guess you can probably kind of expect some of the questions I'm gonna hit you with here.
Jerry Millen: Oh yeah. As long as the questions make sense and they're about PRIDE or they're about MMA – I got no problem with them. If they're stupid questions, I'll tell you I think they're stupid questions.
MMANews.com: That's fine, you can do that. I'm not gonna ask you anything about baseball or anything [laughs]. First of all, tell me – I don't wanna get right into the blunt questions and everything. So I wanna ask you…
Jerry Millen: …you gonna soften me up a little bit, eh?
MMANews.com: Nah, nah [laughs]. I just wanna get a little bit of your background. Like where did you start out in PRIDE and how did you get that job?
Jerry Millen: Well, I used to be a sports anchor and a reporter for CBS Sports out of Detroit. I was an anchor/reporter covering NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball – you name it. A lot with the Detroit Lions, the Red Wings, a lot of things like that. I did sports. PRIDE came through Detroit on a press tour with Don Frye and Ken Shamrock. I had seen some of the earlier UFC's and I was like ok. So I checked out some PRIDE and I saw the fights and thought they were phenomenal. This sport will be huge if it's promoted the right way, especially for young males 18-34. It's a phenomenal sport. It beats boxing to hell. I mean, boxing is a father sport now. I saw that and I just – I liked it. The people who were in charge of PRIDE at the time in America that are no longer here – we had talked and they asked me if I had a tape. And in between that time they worked with my agent and they were going to get me a job to be a commentator. Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros were the commentators at the time. And in the time that they offered me the position I had left the sports [job with CBS] and went to work with the E! channel. I was a reporter and producer for the E! network. I then went on to work on a television show called Extra, a Hollywood show. And then my own production company, produced commercials and things, based out of Detroit. They [PRIDE] brought me in and wanted me to commentate and also produce, and I said I couldn't do both because it's not fair. I think if you're gonna do a job you gotta do the best job you can do. Producing a PRIDE event is a lot of work. A lot of people come into play in doing it, so I wanted to focus on that. So I declined the commentating position and decided to produce for them.
MMANews.com: Now if you were to take that position (commentating), were they planning on getting rid of one of the other two or were you to be joining them?
Jerry Millen: You know, going back – it was five years ago – I don't wanna go back on that [laughs] but you can just take that it for what it was. I was gonna be brought in as a commentator.
Jerry Millen: So I decided not to take that position.
MMANews.com: Now you said you were watching the earlier UFC's, is that like back to UFC 1 or did you start…
Jerry Millen: …yeah, with the Gracie's. I was familiar with some of the Gracie stuff and, you know, Don Frye and those guys. I didn't follow it heavily because I was into mainstream sports at the time and I had to eat and drink football and baseball and golf and things like that. So my mainstream reporting job didn't allow me to follow it as much as I wanted, but once I saw a PRIDE event – I was like “wow!” I was like this is so cool and it's so different and they actually brought me out – the first PRIDE event I saw, because they wanted to see if I'd like it before I, you know… So they said why don't you come out to the PRIDE show “Dynamite” which was K-1 and PRIDE. I walked into the arena and it was 90,000 people.
Jerry Millen: And I was blown away. I had seen it [PRIDE] on DVD, but until you see a PRIDE event in person, you really don't know what you're missing. Especially when you see a PRIDE event in Japan. I was blown away. The Japanese people were phenomenal. The way they handled themselves during a fight, they knew what jiu-jitsu was – they knew the ground game. And during those events there was 90,000 people and you could hear a pin drop in the arena. I was just in awe at how much they love this sport and how much they knew about it. Then I watched the fights and Bob Sapp vs. [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira, and I didn't know who these guys were at the time. And I'm thinking on my god this guy looks like he just got his neck broken, and then he comes back and throws an armbar on Bob Sapp. I was just amazed. I was just like this sport could be huge …and now, MMA is just now scratching the surface in this country.
MMANews.com: So that was your first introduction to Nogueira at the time?
Jerry Millen: Yeah, it was. Yup.
MMANews.com: Not a bad first show to catch him on [laughs]. Ok, do you have any background in martial arts at all?
Jerry Millen: No, no. When I was five I took some karate, but – no [laughs]. That was a long time ago.
MMANews.com: Alright. Now, as a fan, who is your favorite MMA fighter of all time and your favorite fight? Any organization.
Jerry Millen: Well, I mean – it's a tough question as a fan because when you work for a company, I don't think you can approach it as a fan. It's hard for me to say who my favorite fighter is – I mean, when I first started I really enjoyed [Kazushi] Sakuraba, because he came out of nowhere with some of those mongolian chops and some of the stuff he did to the Gracie's. I mean, just watching him you never knew what Sakuraba was going to come up with. So, it was Sakuraba in the beginning. But now that I've got to know the guys, I've just got a lot of respect for all of them.
MMANews.com: Alright, good answer. Sakuraba is a lot of people's favorite fighter.
Jerry Millen: Oh yeah. And outside the ring he's a totally different character than he is inside it. I've had the pleasure of hanging with him a little bit and seeing what he's all about. He's a great guy, you know?
MMANews.com: Any fight that sticks out in your mind?
Jerry Millen: You know, probably – honestly, until the Nick Diaz-[Takanori] Gomi fight I just saw at “The Second Coming,” probably Vanderlei Silva-Quinton Jackson. The second fight when Quinton got knocked through the ropes.
MMANews.com: Definitely a great fight.
Jerry Millen: That was a phenomenal fight, you know? And I consider both of those guys friends. I know Quinton Jackson very well. I talk to him regularly. I know Vanderlei Silva very well. I've been to Brazil and hung out with him there. It's kind of tough sometimes watching these guys fight. When you're friends with them and you know them personally, it's tough to watch them fight. Especially the way Quinton got beat in that fight. I was like damn. But that was a, you know, a great fight.
MMANews.com: You brought up Nick Diaz. Real quick, what are your thoughts on him testing positive for marijuana [at the last PRIDE show]?
Jerry Millen: You know, I don't know. I haven't talked to Nick about it at all. Obviously it's an issue we'll have to deal with and see where it goes, but I really don't have any comments on that. You know, Nick's a great fighter…
MMANews.com: …nothing at all, no suspensions?
Jerry Millen: Umm, we'll see what happens with that, you know? The [Nevada State] Athletic Commission will make the final decision obviously 'cause that's their role, so. But, Nick's a warrior – you know? That kid's a warrior. We brought him into PRIDE – I heard him on a radio show where he said he wanted to fight in PRIDE because he thought it was the best organization in the world, you know? I know he's a warrior. I went down and hung out with him and Cesar Gracie at the training camp. Shot the video with him and then the kid went and put on a hell of a show. He's a warrior. The kid's got a lot of heart. As much heart as I've ever seen in any fighter. Just see that fight.
MMANews.com: Most people don't know he suffered a broken orbital bone in that fight, which is amazing considering the rate in which he fought in the bout.
Jerry Millen: Yeah, he's a great kid with a great future and I'm very happy with him. It was my idea to sign him, you know? I said we should go after Nick Diaz and I'm happy that we decided to do that.
MMANews.com: Now speaking of that fight. That was an excellent fight and I just gotta ask – why was Takanori Gomi's title not on the line against a top fighter like Nick Diaz?
Jerry Millen: You know, I don't make those decisions so I'm not sure. That's not my decision to make so…
MMANews.com: …who makes that decision?
Jerry Millen: Umm, it's out of Japan, you know? [Nobuyuki] Sakakibara. They make it out of Japan so it's not my decision to make.
MMANews.com: Alright. Now, who do you feel is the number one Lightweight in the world saying that?
Jerry Millen: Saying that? You know, that …honestly, I don't know. I think in an MMA fight – anything can happen at anytime. I've seen a lot of Takanori Gomi's fights and I've seen them all in PRIDE. Great, great fighter. Tough fighter. But you can't win everyday, you know? Everyone who watches a fight knows – anything can happen. Do I want to see a Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi II for the title? Sure I do. Everybody does.
MMANews.com: Now let me ask you, do you think the first…since it wasn't your decision. Do you think the title should have been on the line in the first one?
Jerry Millen: You know, honestly …personally and I know everyone will be like “oh I can't believe he said that.” Me? It doesn't matter. I just want to see a good fight. If there's a title on the line – great. If there's not – I still want to see the fight. It doesn't matter if it's a title or not, I still want to see that fight. There's fights I want to see now that aren't happening that whether there's a title on the line or the title wasn't on the line, I still want to see the fight.
MMANews.com: I agree, but in the case of champions I think they have a title for a reason – and that's to defend them and prove that they're the best. Just my opinion as a fan.
Jerry Millen: Right, right. And I respect your opinion. To me, either way I just want to see a great fight. That's, you know, that's what I'm about. If they said it's not a title fight, then it's not a title fight.
To read part two of our exclusive interview with PRIDE V.P. Jerry Millen, log on to MMANews.com again tomorrow, Thursday, March 8th.
For more information on PRIDE Fighting Championships, visit their official website.