I feel pretty good. I'm as healthy as I've ever been since the last GP. I've had many injuries but they've all healed up. I'm healthy. I feel pretty good, conditioning wise. Mentally, I'm strong. I feel like I can win this thing. I feel like I'm still improving. I still feel I'm a great fighter and nobody's going to walk over the top of me. Win or lose, this won't be my last fight. I plan on doing this for a few more years. Facing this guy is the toughest sports challenge in my life. I've faced many challenges before, though. This is just another one. Obviously, it's a big one. It's one that I will find a way to get through.
How do you look at this challenge against Fedor amongst everything you've done in your career?
There was an easier draw for me but I'm honored that PRIDE would put me in such a big situation, so early. I'm still main event material. It's something to be proud of. I'm 39 and I can still main event. I accept this challenge and I hope to do very well. I hope to put on a good show for the fans. Just do my best. I'm trying not put any pressure on myself. I'm going out there and see what I've got left in my tank.
You two are very similar in a lot of ways. What kind of fight do you see? How have you prepared for Emelianenko?
I've done a little bit of everything. I'm anticipating that anything could happen. I could even be on my back, at some point. I don't plan on panicking. Maybe I'll find out what ground and pound feels like from down there but I've been there before many times before and I'm pretty comfortable on the bottom. I feel I'll be able to reverse the situation. Many things could happen. It's not the type of fight you can have a game plan for. He's a good submission guy from what I understand. I'm going to have to counter his submissions very well. He may try some submissions on me. Once the fight gets going, I think both guys will just be looking to take each other's head off.
I've got to wear my shoes. It gives him an advantage as far as heel-hooks and knee-bars but I've never fought without the shoes. I'm going to have to wear the shoes. They give me an advantage as far as traction and speed. They give me a lot more speed in my takedowns and I do anticipate taking this guy down. I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
A little bit of everything. It was made clear to me that I had to be in this tournament. I respected PRIDE and the boss's decision to be a little more careful in my training because I like to train all-out. I wanted to make sure I was in this tournament so I did a lot more cardio using machines and running hills and stuff like that. Instead of using another body because that's when the potential for injuries come into play. It's very hard to simulate a fight without fighting, though. I've missed some fights and I wasn't going to miss this one so I was a little bit cautious during my training. Hopefully, I made up for it in the conditioning area.
You're an MMA legend at 39. How do you prepare for a tournament of this nature? Facing someone like the Heavyweight Champion, how do you prepare mentally?
I tried to think as little as possible about this fight because the more you think about it, the more it will wear you down and possibly take your energy. I think about good things that I have in life. I tried to avoid getting stressed out. I'm just trying to relax. When the fight gets here, then it will be time to turn it on.
No. He can do it all so what can you train for? You try to prepare for everything but it's hard to do. There's nobody around like him. I'm just going to go out there and do my best. He has to deal with my strengths as well. It's not just me that has to worry about his greatness. He's got to worry about some skills I have as well.
My takedowns have always been my strength. I do plan on taking him down. I've always felt it was an advantage position to be on top unless you are fighting a guy like Nogueira. Against most people, being on top is an advantage. I feel that I'm the best takedown person in the business. Just experience and continuing to improve in all areas of the game. It was a big relief for me to get the neck surgery and get rid of the pain that I had for over 2 years. The fact that I had the surgery, the pain is gone and my strength is back is another asset.
About 6 months ago. I had a herniated disk in my neck. I was fortunate enough that I found a doctor who does a special surgery. It's the same doctor Kurt Angle had. He's the one that called me up and told me about this guy. I didn't have to get it fused and it's given me a new life in this sport. For this one, I was a little bit cautious in training because I had to make sure I was in this tournament. After this, I'm going to go back to training the way I used to. If things go wrong, things go wrong. I feel very healthy and the neck feels good. Let's hope it stays that way throughout the fight and after the fight.