An unfortunate turn-of-events: Kazushi Sakuraba is forced out of the New Year's Eve show due to broken ribs! Dream Stage Entertainment announced at an emergency press conference on December 26th that Kazushi Sakuraba will not be allowed to participate in his scheduled 4th match against Wanderlei Silva, scheduled for the December 31st 2004 PRIDE SHOCKWAVE event.
The gathered reporters were at a loss for words. Sakuraba was unexpectedly absent from the November 30th press conference announcing his fight, supposedly due to oversleeping. On December 9th, it was made clear that he had a serious lumbar vertebrae sprain. He declared that he would be healed in time for New Year's Eve but fate didn't not turn such a kind eye as he had expected.
Sakuraba's injury has been diagnoses as "fractured ribs and rib cage", with a fracture in the 7th rib, a much more serious injury that a sprained lower back. Sakuraba was very positive in his press conference on the 9th but on the 17th, DSE received a report that the situation is much more serious and Sakuraba has a broken rib, not an injured back. After receiving the updated diagnosis, a 3-way meeting was held between Takada Dojo, DSE and Fuji Television on the 22nd, and the decision was made to take Sakuraba out of the event. Sakuraba finally agreed to this on the 25th, after repeated explanations of the situation, and the cancellation was finalized.
The reason for the long time between the discovery of the broken rib and the announcement of cancellation was due to Sakuraba refusing to give up the fight. "He wouldn't give up. He felt very strongly that he wanted to fight," PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada explained. "He just kept saying 'I want to fight.' However, he would be in pain after only 5 minutes of aerobic exercise. There's no way he can fight like that and he finally realized that it was impossible."
DSE President Nobuyuki Sakakibara, also present at the conference, added, "We could see a broken rib in the CT scan we took on December 5th. Sakuraba tried to best to be able to participate but the re-scan on the 14th revealed that the fracture had expanded and if he fought, there was a possibility that his internal organs would be damaged. As such, there was no way we could allow him to fight. He believed that he would recover but since his ribs are broken, they won't heal well if he does more than breathe. It's a very unfortunate turn of events but New Year's Eve isn't his final goal. We are planning an event in February of next year, in addition to a Middleweight Grand Prix. I know how everyone feels but I have to insist that Saku give up on this event." Takada added, "It's unfortunate but this is the best thing for his future."
Wanderlei Silva still wants to compete in PRIDE SHOCKWAVE, despite a change in opponent, and according to Takada, DSE will have a new opponent ready for him in 2~3 days. "If Silva vs. Sakuraba was rated at 100, it will be difficult to make another match that would rate 100, too," Sakakibara said. "I hope to have a card that rates between 80 and 90. We will prepare an opponent with the most impact to take over for Saku. This will actually be a chance for other fighters. This is a survival-of-the-fittest world, so anyone that leaves an impact could be the next Saku."
Sakuraba, also present, commented, "I would like to apologize to the fans that were looking forward to the fight, DSE, related parties and finally, Silva, who accepted the fight in the first place. I hope I will have another chance to face him." Asked about who could replace him, Sakuraba said, "I want to fight." When Takada was asked about why it took so long to explain the situation to Sakuraba, Sakuraba replied himself, "Because I want to fight. I'm getting better every day. I think I can fight if I had another week." Although he's out of the event, it seems that Sakuraba still hasn't given up completely.