When the legendary Kazushi Sakuraba dreams up a new fight promotion, well, you expect the format to be a little nuts.
This is the welterweight-sized warrior who, during the peak of the iconic Japanese PRIDE FC promotion, routinely accepted fights with the world’s most dangerous middleweights, light heavyweights and even heavyweights. This is the UFC Hall of Famer who took on almost the entirety of the famed Gracie clan, fighting them – and beating them – under their own rules.
So, it is no surprise that the concept of Quintet – which streams live and on-demand on UFC FIGHT PASS tonight (3am ET) - came from his mind.
Taking place at the historic Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall in Tokyo, Japan, Quintet is a grappling event with a difference. While it echoes the “submission only” rules created by Eddie Bravo for his own EBI event, Quintet sees teams of five competitors go at under in a survival series rules. A member of each teams starts off on the mat, and fight until one is eliminated. The winner then immediately faces the second member of the opposing team – and the match continues until all five members of one team are eliminated.
The two winning teams will then face off in the finale match.
Sakuraba has been developing the unique format for over a year. He told UFC.com: “Fight fans – and especially Japanese fight fans – love to see a come-from-behind win. They come to see the underdog fight against the odds – and what more overwhelming odds are there than the possibility of one fight alone against two, three, four or even five opponents?
“There’s almost the chance that a fighter will be much smaller than he opponent. Each team can weigh a maximum of 948lbs, so yes, I have former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett on my team, but I couldn’t have all heavyweights. We could see my smallest teammate taking on the other team’s biggest fighter. There is going to be a lot of strategy in who fights for each team in what order.”
Quintet has assembled a talented roster of 20 fighters for the four teams featured in this first event. Saku himself is in action alongside Barnett, PRIDE FC veteran Daisuke Nakamura, 2008 Olympic judo champion Satoshi Ishii, submission grappling stars Craig Jones, Marcos de Souzam and Gregor Gracie - plus Japanese MMA standouts including former UFC title challenger Caol Uno.
Sakuraba said: “It’s exciting to have so many great grapplers take part in this first event. Many top fighters are interested in a new challenge, a new experience, and the chance to test their skills and fighting spirit in an environment that is unique. We have the best catch-wrestlers, a team of Sambo champions, and some of the best judoka in the world.”
Along with his friend Barnett, Sakuraba has been taking part on several ‘test’ matches over the last few months.
Barnett said: “We’ve worked very hard on the rules. We’ve tried to think of everything we can to make this as fast-paced as we can. We know there is going to be a lot of strategy here. No individual fighter can win this – the team who wins will be the team who recognizes that only a team effort will win.”
Quintet is the highlight of UFC FIGHT PASS’s second annual “PRIDE Never Die” week, where the iconic MMA promotion (1997 – 2007) is celebrated with new documentaries and interviews.
Sakuraba believes Quintet echoes some of the best aspects of PRIDE: “One of the things that PRIDE did best was mix the fun factor of pro-wrestling with the reality of competition. I wanted to create an event that I, as a fan, would love to see myself. There will be a lot of strategy. Each team has bigger fighters and smaller fighters - but it is up to them which order they fight. One team may decide to start off with a heavyweight, and the opposing team may decide to save their biggest athlete until last, where he could be facing an exhausted and smaller opponent.
The Hall of Famer added: “I am very happy to be working with UFC FIGHT PASS to ensure fight fans around the world get the chance to witness this event which I’ve been working on for so long.”