A press conference was held on March 17 at the Yoshida Dojo to announce that a match up between Wanderlei Silva and Hidehiko Yoshida has been confirmed for the April 23 PRIDE GP 2005 Opening Round (A.K.A. Total Elimination 2005), to be held at the Osaka Dome.
Yoshida was challenged by the PRIDE Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva at the February 20 th PRIDE FIST OF FIRE to a first round match in the upcoming PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix. "If I don't accept, it would mean that I ran away," Yoshida said about the challenge. "I owe him something from 2 years ago." A rematch 2 years in the making has finally been confirmed, bringing together the desires of both fans and fighters.
"As the promoter, I am well aware (of the dangers) of putting 2 of the most important players in the Grand Prix," commented Dream Stage Entertain CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara. "I would rather see them in the finals."
"I think it will be a tough fight but I wanted a rematch and I've got to pay him back. Actually, I think I'm lucky because Silva asked for me," Yoshida added. "I'm training hard for April 23 rd and will give everyone a great fight."
Now one of PRIDE's star fighters will be eliminated in the first round, but with both opportunity and destiny seeming to push this match, the promoters decided to play their trump card. Yoshida, however, refuses to forget his loss at the last Middleweight Grand Prix.
Wanderlei Silva also gave his comments, through DSE, about the match up.
I'm very happy now that I know my fight with Yoshida at the Grand Prix has been finalized. I want to thank Dream Stage Entertainment and everyone else involved in putting this card together. I will absolutely win. It won't be a decision like 2 years ago, though. I will win by KO or submission.
I'm training extremely hard now in preparation for this fight. I'm doing it to win this fight. I'm also doing it to prove that I am the Champion.
Mr. Sakakibara said that I could enter as a "seeded fighter" in the 2 nd Round this year. However, I am the PRIDE Middleweight Champion and I asked that I be able to enter from the first round like all the other fighters. I will prove again in this tournament that I am the true Champion.
Representing Brazil and Chute Boxe, I will show all of the fans a great fight and I will win the Grand Prix.
There may be a little disappointment among the fans regarding who Yoshida chose but there's also a feeling of unfinished business regarding their last fight. Except for Daijiro Matsui in Wanderlei's early days in PRIDE, Yoshida is the only Japanese fighter to take Wanderlei to a decision. Since Wanderlei became the PRIDE Middleweight Champion, he has knocked out every Japanese fighter he has faced. His decision victory over Yoshida was no doubt hard to accept for Wanderlei and now he has promised to either KO or submit Yoshida.
Yoshida has always been aware of Silva. "I've watched all of his fights because I fought him. Watching him fight and actually fighting him is different, though. I'm not thinking of his opponents, just myself." Regarding Silva's claim that he will win the Grand Prix, Yoshida replied, "It was the same when I was doing judo. The best way is to just suddenly realize that you have won. If you don't win the first round, there's no way to win the finals, so I'm concentrating on the first round." In a card like this, where every match could be the main event, Yoshida is fully concentrating on Silva without letting himself get distracted by what might lie ahead.
Yoshida's game plan will be "decided by the flow of the fight." Yoshida didn't give many details but he did give a hint about his strategy. "I think it will be a tough battle. I've got to stretch it into a long fight."
They last time they fought, there were only 2 rounds of 10 minutes and 5 minutes because it was the Semi-Final Round of the tournament, as opposed to the normal 3 rounds of 10, 5 and 5 minutes. Yoshida apparently didn't have a clear grasp of the rules and says that when he was pinned down in the 2 nd round, he thought, "I've got to take it to the next round or I'm in trouble." Another way of looking at his comments is that he believes he could have turned it around if he had another round.
This time, however, they will meet up in the Opening Round, which means they will have 3 rounds of 10, 5 and 5 minutes in which to fight. Whether this will be good or bad for Yoshida will depend if he can turn it into a long fight, taking it into the 3 rd round, when Silva's pace slows down. Just the possibility of a 3 rd round means that this match could go in an entirely different direction than last time.
Yoshida isn't looking for a decision victory, though. "I'm going to fight him straight on." The thing Yoshida regrets most from their past match is that he backed away from Silva's striking, feeling that he should have attacked more. This time, according to Yoshida, it will be different. "I don't know what will happen once the fight gets going but I will not back down."
There are several worrisome elements. The right foot that Yoshida hurt against Gardner . The right shoulder that he hurt against Hunt. Yoshida laughed away our concerns, though. "I'm training at full power. Every one has injuries. There's nothing to do but tough it out." Does Yoshida have the drive, the desire for revenge, needed to push this fight? "I've lost most of the re-matches I've had," Yoshida said with a sad laugh. Apparently not wanting to jinx himself, Yoshida corrected, "Actually, I haven't had that many rematches."
hile Yoshida's face remains calm, there's no doubt that he's burning up on the inside and he says that he's not afraid of Silva. "When I lost, I wanted to fight him again right away but I couldn't." This is most likely a fight that he's been looking forward to for a long time. "I don't care how it happens, as long as I'm the winner in the end. I'll be fighting with everything I've got."