"The real Rickson" and Atlanta Olympics gold medal winner Pawel Nastula enters PRIDE!

Pawel Nastula (34, Poland), gold medal winner in the Atlanta Olympics' ??E5kg judo competition, announced in a February 19th press conference that he would fight in PRIDE. Nastula has already requested matches with the top fighters, "I want to fight Fedor, Nogueira, Mirko and Yoshida."

Nastula will be the 3rd judo Olympic gold medalist to compete in PRIDE, following Yoshida and Takimoto. In addition to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Nastula had won many European and World competitions, becoming one of the top 50 judo players in the world. He also went for 312 consecutive wins over a period of 1,220 days, a monumental feat. The press conference began with Sakakibara announcing Nastula's participation in PRIDE and his official entrance into Takada.

"I met with Nastula many times. The more I heard and the more I investigated, I realized what an amazing judo player he is and thought how strange and lucky these chance encounters can be. I'm glad that a top-class judo player has joined Takada Dojo, a place heretofore not connected with judo.

We first heard that Nastula wanted to fight in PRIDE through a friend of his. He said that he'd already climbed a giant mountain but was willing to restart from the bottom of a new mountain, giving his all to fight in PRIDE. Of course, we welcomed him. We began negotiating in November and agreed a few days ago to aim for a June debut.
Looking over the current PRIDE heavyweight division, it's clear that Fedor, Nogueira and Mirko have put a lot of distance between them and the other fighters. I think this is good but if it continues like this for a long time, viewers will begin to think that's just not interesting anymore. Will a new wind, a new storm, blow through and shake things up? The potential of judo players has already been proven in Yoshida, Takimoto and Ogawa. With 312 consecutive victories in 1,220 days, Nastula is the real Rickson and I expect him to bring a great change to the heavyweight division."

Nastula took the mic, adding, "I wanted to fight in a new world, after a long career in judo. I've decided to train for PRIDE at Mr. Takada's place. I've come to Japan many times for judo matches and the Japanese fans have always welcome me warmly. Now that my judo career is over, I want to surprise the PRIDE fans."




Pride Fighting Championships: When did you become interested in MMA?
Pawel Nastula: I first saw PRIDE during the Rickson VS Takada match. Then I saw the Royce Gracie VS Yoshida match and thought that I could become number one, too. That's when I decided to compete in PRIDE. I was still the Polish judo representative at that time, aiming for the Athens Olympics, so it had to be after that was finished
Pride: When did you officially quit judo?
Nastula: June 2004, before the Athens Olympics.
Pride: What is your training situation like?
Nastula: I'm going to train at my own dojo and at Takada Dojo. I know top wrestling, boxing and sambo fighters in Poland. I'm going to train with them in their sports.
Pride: We heard that you had a judo match with Fedor. Is that true?
Nastula: No, that's a mistake. I've never fought Fedor. Fedor and I are on different levels in judo and in my view Fedor is not a judo player. He is a sambo player.
Pride: Are you worried about striking?
Nastula: Well, there's certainly no striking in judo. I began training under a boxing coach 2 months ago.
Pride: Will you wear your judo gi when you fight?
Nastula: I haven't decided yet. I will consider it as I watch fights.



"This is applicable to all athletes that want to be in PRIDE. You may have been the top of the judo world but how far will it take you in a different sport," Sakakibara asked. "PRIDE is where the strong are proven. We have many fighters training to be the strongest. I hope he will fight the top fighters like Fedor and Nogueira, as he said. (Regarding his debut) It's just a coincidence but his birthday is also on June 26. He will probably start around this time, before next year's Heavyweight Grand Prix."