A post PRIDE.34 Press Conference was held on Monday, April 9th at the DSE office in Aoyama, Tokyo, where fighters Makoto Takimoto, Shinya Aoki, Sokoudjou "African Assassin," as well as Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara and PRIDE Executive Director Nobuhiko Takada, made their appearance following Sunday's big event.
Sakakibara, who delivered his farewell to fighters and fans at PRIDE.34, provided a recap of the event and expressed how pleased he was with the last PRIDE event to be held under his operation. Following Sakakibara's comments, PRIDE Executive Director Nobuhiko Takada announced the schedule for the upcoming PRIDE Lightweight GP 2007 Tournament.
PRIDE Lightweight GP 2007 Opening Round
May 20, 2007 - TOTAL ELIMINATION 2007 (Tokyo, Japan)
PRIDE Lightweight GP 2007 2nd Round
July 16, 2007 - CRITICAL COUNTDOWN 2007 (Nagoya, Japan)
PRIDE Lightweight GP 2007 Championship
September 30, 2007 - FINAL CONFLICT 2007 (Tokyo, Japan)
Fighters including Takanori Gomi, Hayato "Mach" Sakurai, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Mitsuhiro Ishida, Gilbert Melendez, Joachim Hansen, Luiz Azeredo, Marcus Aurelio, as well as several top UFC fighters, have thus far been named as part of a tentative lineup for Lightweight GP 2007.
Shinya Aoki, Makoto Takimoto, and Sokoudjou then provided their comments as they looked back on the previous day and their triumphant bouts.
Reflecting back on his match at PRIDE.34, where he seized a victory by armbar at 1'33" of the first round, Aoki mentioned that he is rather ashamed of his performance since he wound up receiving blows. "As a step towards the Lightweight GP, I've been training to improve my grappling and striking. I hope to concentrate my training around coordinating my grappling and striking techniques, and step onto the GP ring in the best condition," Aoki stated.
When asked about a potential UFC opponent, he replied, "It can be anyone as long as he's strong. Weak fighters won't be able to mount the PRIDE ring. "
In regards to his fight, Takimoto confessed that just as he had been told by Sakakibara, he thought he should consider resigning if he had lost this match. "But I was able to exert my power to the fullest, and although I shouldn't be satisfied, I am very content with my match. If I have another chance, I'd like to do my best again," Takimoto affirmed.
Despite stating that he hasn't really thought about the future, since he was only thinking about yesterday's bout, he expressed his ambition, asserting that he is more concerned about fighting against a strong fighter than fighting for a belt.
Sokoudjou, who has now defeated the two aces of Brazilian Top Team, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona, appeared at the press conference with his "friend" a stuffed giraffe. "My friend here and I would like to thank all of the fans who came to support me and Mr. Sakakibara who gave me the opportunity to fight. I also want to thank Rogerio and Arona. I've always wanted to fight in Japan. I love Japan and I love Tokyo," Sokoudjou stated.
When asked about plans for his next match, he answered, "My duty is to train. Team Quest decides who, when, and where to fight. I'm ready to fight any time as soon as I'm prepared."
Impressed by Sokoudjou's talent, Executive Director Takada himself inquired, "You're only 22 [years old] right? How far are you going to go?" Sokoudjou said that he will continue to fight and train, and that he hoped to appear as a character in the next PRIDE game: "I want the artist to draw my hair so that everyone will know it's me."
As a token of appreciation, Sokoudjou gave Takada his stuffed giraffe.
In his closing comment, Takada mentioned, "We always think about what the fans want to see, and what is necessary to make them happen. That's how we create PRIDE. We will continue to work towards living up to the fans' expectations and produce events that will move their hearts."