3.16 SAKAKIBARA INTERVIEW
03/16/2005

During a press conference announcing new strategies for the Hustle food product line, Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara commented about his recent inspection trip to Europe and the upcoming Grand Prix Opening Round.

"I spent about 10 days in Turkey , Holland and Uzbekistan . The first thing I did was attend the national competitions at the World Cup in Uzbekistan , along with the Japanese Wrestling Federation's Chairman, Tomiaki Fukuda, as a part of our tie-up with FILA," Sakakibara explained to the press. "There were 7 weight classes, with participants from America , Russia , Ukraine , Cuba , Iran and Uzbekistan . I met with FILA Chairman Martinetti, saw an Uzbekistan freestyle wrestling champion in the 120kg weight class and we discussed wrestlers participating in future PRIDE events. There were a lot of wrestlers that heard we were in Uzbekistan and asked us to put them in PRIDE."

"I met Fedor in Holland , working on his striking," Sakakibara continued. "He has been training to defeat Nogueira's jiu-jitsu but after seeing the Mirko/Coleman fight, it seems he began training with a Mirko fight in mind. His younger brother Alexander was also in Holland and I hope he will appear in PRIDE soon. The two of them were training in Holland with a fighter named Roman Zentsov. Fedor said that he still doesn't accept the outcome of his fight with Kosaka in RINGS and he wants to be in great shape when he fights Kosaka. Kosaka is a pioneer in MMA, very popular and he has never fought in the PRIDE ring, but he has played a supporting role for many fighters, including Yoshida. I thought that if Kosaka is going to be in PRIDE, he deserves an opponent suitable for that stage."

"We then went to Turkey to meet an old friend of Chairman Fukuda, a Tokyo Olympic gold medalist. Wrestling is very popular in Turkey , including oil wrestling, and they say there are 30,000 wrestlers in Turkey . There was an oil-wrestling tournament with 12 weight classes held last year, around the same time as the Heavyweight Grand Prix 2 nd Round, with 1,200 participants. We spoke with the winner of the Heavyweight division about possible PRIDE participation. He's 2 meters tall and weighs about 130kg."

"I was only able to see a few things during this trip to Europe but I felt like there are a lot of great fighters there that are still unknown. Even if they can't fight right now, there are many that have the potential to be great fighters in 2 or 3 years."

 

 

Pride Fighting Championships: When can we expect a Fedor and Mirko fight?
Nobuyuki Sakakibara: I think it depends on how the fight with Kosaka comes out but I would like to have it in the first half of this year. Fedor's participation (in PRIDE BUSHIDO 6) isn't about fighting a Mirko-like fighter. It's about erasing the only loss on his record, against Kosaka, and then taking on Mirko, the strongest challenger. Fedor has Mirko in his sights, of course.
Pride: How about Tamura and the Grand Prix?
Sakakibara: I would like to meet with him this week and discuss his injury. Pushing yourself to compete, despite an injury, can affect a fighter's career. If he can prepare himself in the little more than a month remaining, I want him to compete. I don't think he will do it if he's not able, though.
Pride: How many GP candidates did you find on your trip?
Sakakibara: We received several recommendations from FILA. We've also had offers from the amateur judo world, in addition to wrestling. How do we narrow it down to just 16 fighters? (laughing) We will make our selection based not only on Olympic or international competition records, but also on whether they are training in MMA and are they prepared.
Pride: Yoshida has been positive in his comments about fighting Silva.
Sakakibara: It's not exactly "strike while the iron is hot" but if they are both excited about fighting each other, I would consider a first round match up. One of them would be dropped from the tournament but a tournament is a fight for survival, after all.