The Gold Medalist attacks! Rulon Gardner has arrived in Japan for the battle of the Olympic Gold Medalists against Hidehiko Yoshida in the December 31st 2004 PRIDE SHOCKWAVE. Gardner arrived at Narita Airport at approximately 4pm on December 27th. He had a cut below his right eye but was calm before his debut MMA fight.

The injury under Gardner's eye caught the attention of the gathered reporters and Gardner talking about the tough training he underwent to quickly prepare for his first MMA fight. "Ah, this cut? I got this when I went for a tackle in training and my opponent did a knee kick. I got 8 stitches. It was 3 weeks ago. To be honest, I'm a little nervous."

The reporters became excited hearing this because Yoshida has previously said that he would knee Gardner if he came in for a tackle. Gardner, hearing Yoshida's words, replied unfazed, "I've looked at his kicks and knees, and I trained for that. Other than those techniques, I think he has a lot of skill."

Gardner also said that he's been studying Yoshida. "I've watching many of his videos. I could see his takedown ability when he fought Mark Hunt. His 2nd fight with Royce was a draw but it was a great fight. I think his abilities showed the most when he fought Silva, though. It was a good fight, just back and forth. I think he's a good opponent for me."

"I feel very refreshed and excited today. I've been training very well since I announced 2 months ago that I'd fight in PRIDE. I've prepared with Team Quest. This is going to be a difficult hurdle and a great fight."

Yoshida will probably wear a judo gi, as usual. How has Gardner prepared for that? "I've watched his fights. I know there will be strikes and chokes. I had my training partner wear a gi, do chokes and arm-bars on me, and we constructed a defense." Speaking of which, Henderson said just before his match with Nakamura, Yoshida's student, that they have a team members who did judo and spars with them. Maybe they have come up with similar defenses?

On the other hand, everyone is interested in Gardner's punching skill. Team Quest member Randy Couture said that (Gardner's) punches are incredibly strong. "I weigh 133kg now. It's easy for me to move at this weight. Truthfully, I've never had a fist fight so I'm a little nervous about hitting someone," Gardner commented. "I've been training though so I will change that nervousness into strength in my fight. I'll probably punch, depending on the situation, but I won't know until I actually fight. Whether I do a takedown and punch effectively or stand up will depend on what I decide at that moment."




Asked about how he feels the match will go, Gardner responded, "Yoshida is an incredible athlete. I'll be happy if I can get a KO from any position, whether it's by punching, takedowns, submission or pounding. We're both Olympic Gold Medalists so I want to have a fight that doesn't discredit that title." Gardner carries the pride that all athletes that have stood at the highest peak in their chosen sports carry. Two men, two sports and both are at the top of their fields.

Of course, the eyes of the wrestling community are on this match. The President of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) is scheduled to be in attendance. Gardner was surprised to find this out and said he didn't know anything about it. "If he's really coming to watch, it's an honor. As the representative of wrestling, I will give a good fight, always moving forward. Both Henderson and I will fight in this event and Randy and the other team members are here so everyone will be able to see the success of wrestling." Gardner also said that he received word that the American National Wrestling Team would be watching on PPV.

Gardner may have also given us a glimpse of the future when asked about his post-Yoshida plans. "First, surviving this match is the most important thing. To be honest, I haven't really thought about it much. I do have some interest in the guy that took out Matt Ghaffari, though.