5’9” vs 7’1”, 160 pounds vs 500 pounds, and every other mismatch you can imagine was seen at PRIDE FC, so what would it take to be considered the strangest moment in the iconic fight promotion?
PRIDE FC commentator and MMA legend Bas Rutten has seemingly seen it all. From having one of the most admired careers in MMA history to mentoring Kimbo Slice to sitting ringside at PRIDE FC events as a part of the commentary team, st this point it’s most likely impossible to throw something at Rutten that “El Guapo” hasn’t seen.
One thing that still sticks out to the man desensitized to the bizarre came at PRIDE 4, when Hugo Duarte ran smack dab into a prime Smashing Machine, Mark Kerr.
Multitasking between commentary duties and acting as Kerr’s cornerman, Rutten may have set the table for the unusual before the fight even started. Both the coach and commentator in him knew that it was about to be a long night for Duarte.
“Mark Kerr, he was a freakin’ animal,” Rutten recalls. “He was shaped like a god and he was just destroying people, so they were looking for a victim, so to say; they weren’t looking for opponents. I think they offered him a whole bunch of money but when the reality sets in that you’re going to be in front of 48,000 people in the audience and all your family members will be in the audience, that could be a rude awakening. I think he just didn’t want to lose.”
At 9-0, Kerr had already won two fights by way of opponent leaving the ring. Not tapping out, but leaving altogether. This brutality may have been present on Duarte’s mind or possibly Kerr’s chin to the eye submission at UFC 14. Either way, it was clear to Rutten that Duarte had better places to be than Tokyo, Japan that night.
Just when you thought verbal submission, leaving the cage and tapping out were the only way to submit in a fight, Duarte came in and proved everybody wrong.
“The referee, at times during the fight, would put him back on his feet and he would stand, and when the referee would say, ‘fight’ he would fall backwards on the ground,” Rutten said. “He was doing this constantly, constantly.”
Duarte gave the impression he came to win in the early stages of the fight. Before all was said and done, however, he followed in the footsteps of other fallen victims of Kerr and pushed himself out of the ring much to the chagrin of… everyone.
Not only were Kerr and the referee losing their patience, Rutten saw something he had never seen before or since in PRIDE FC. Booing fans.
“The thing that you cannot do in Japan is not fight,” Rutten explained. “If you never want to come back to Japan, do that because I know 100% guarantee, that was the last time for Duarte because he didn’t do anything. The people were booing and for the people in Japan to boo a fight you’ve got to be really be really freaking bad man. The people in Japan never do that.”
After an accidental Kerr headbutt appeared to affect Duarte in the same way that a sledgehammer to the nose may have, Duarte voluntarily dropped to his back and refused to stand for over five minutes before the referee stood them up and Duarte dropped to his back again.
Nearly 30 seconds passed of Kerr standing over Duarte, waiting for him to stand while the Brazilian laid on his back, refusing. After the referee took to physically pulling Duarte up only to watch him collapse again… and again, it was all over.
Not only was Hugo Duarte never to fight again in Japan but he appeared to rethink his entire career as a fighter, retiring after only two more bouts. Going 1-1 with his win coming by DQ, Kerr may have broken the once 5-0 finishing machine.
He wasn’t in PRIDE FC long but he left a lasting mark on both the promotion and Rutten.
“It’s all the way up there,” Rutten laughed. “It definitely belongs in the top five weirdest fights in PRIDE Fighting Championship.”
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