A press conference was held in Tokyo on December 16th to announce 3 new fights on the December 31st PRIDE SHOCKWAVE card.
"The end of the year will be upon us in just 2 weeks," DSE President Nobuyuki Sakakibara began the conference, "and we've nearly completed the final adjustments for the SHOCKWAVE card." To date, the matchups had been "judo vs. sumo" with Sentoryu vs. Makoto Takimoto, "real pro-wrestling vs. kickboxing" with Ikuhisa Minowa vs. Stefan Leko, "the giant vs. the Korean boom" with Giant Silva vs. Choi Mu Bae, and a spot for the "Butchering Piranha", Ryo Chonan.
PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada then explained the process leading to the Takimoto-Sentoryu match. "I said in the press conference the other day with Takimoto that I hoped his fight would be a match-up between different styles. Both of these fighters have devoted their entire lives to their individual arts and have been successful. One was a ranked sumo rikishi and the other, an Olympic gold medalist in judo. We were also considering Mark Hunt initially but he hurt his foot in the beginning of December and will require 1 month to heal, making him unable to fight in this event. So, Sentoryu was the only candidate remaining when we brought this conversation to Takimoto. Sentoryu had a difficult first match but he showed us a great fight in the last BUSHIDO, that he has a future and that he can evolve. There will be a significant weight difference in Takimoto's debut match and I think it will be a difficult hurdle to overcome. This match-up of two fighters that have each carried a national sport upon their shoulders is appropriate considering the theme of this event, "destiny". When we took this offer to Takimoto, his response gave me strength. Just as he said in the beginning, any fighter is fine. Big or small doesn't matter and he has no problem fighting Sentoryu."
The weight difference that Takimoto faces in Sentoryu is nearly 90 pounds. Additionally, Sentoryu used the boxing skills he learned, scoring a beautiful KO victory in his 2nd fight and will ride that wave into this match. This fight will be dangerous, even for an Olympic gold medalist. Takimoto, however, is a tough judo player, with excellent technique and a giant opportunity here, and has shown that he's strong under pressure. There is little doubt that he'll show Sentoryu why he is regarded so highly in the judo world.
"I decided to fight after seeing last year's New Year's Eve event," Sentoryu explained. "After debuting this year, working hard and winning like I did in my last fight, I'm glad I fought. Regarding Takimoto, I've devoted my whole life to sumo. He won an Olympic gold medal so I think he is an incredible fighter. I respect him but this will be my 3rd fight, while he will be making his debut. I want to keep showing everyone the real strength of sumo and I will teach him exactly how tough the PRIDE ring is. I will win. I will show the strength of sumo."
Sentoryu became faster after losing 22lb for his last fight, against Mal "The Twin Tiger", and he said that he's dropped another 13lbs for this fight. "I'm faster and my body moves more smoothly. I haven't lost any power and my stamina has increased. Actually, I'm probably stronger than before."
"I asked for the Takimoto fight," Sentoryu continued, predicting his victory. I'm happy that we can fight based on our backbones of the Japanese sports, sumo and judo. I will knock him out with a sumo strike."
Asked about Takimoto's declaration that he would wear his judo gi, Sentoryu responded, "There's no problem because I'm also studying jiujitsu. If I wasn't doing anything, I might be nervous but I'm not now. Actually, him wearing a judo gi will be an advantage for me." Sentoryu's comments showed confidence from beginning to end. There's little doubt that his recent victory had something to do with that.
However, their fight will not be the only one with a mixing of styles. One other that stands out is the Minowa-Leko fight. "I've been allowed to fight several times since last year's New Year's Eve event. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to produce very good results and now we are at the year's end again. I don't want to start a new year this way and pleaded with them to let me fight," Minowa explained about his appearance. "I told them that I would fight anyone. I just want to fight." The opponent that PRIDE prepared for him is Stefan Leko, who faced Naoya Ogawa in the Heavyweight Grand Prix Opening Round. "I'm going to do my best to kill him, even if I have to die in the process, so I ask you all for your support."
"Last year, I fought in the first match so I want to fight Leko in the first match this year. I hope my fight will set the mood for the rest of the day. To be honest, I want my fight to be the best," Minowa commented, asking for the opening fight and declaring his match would win the best fight award. Sakakibara didn't immediately reply to his request.
Chonan, on the other hand, has yet to find out who his opponent will be. Nonetheless, he's confident of victory, "I'm thankful that they let someone like me fight. My fight will be the only with an 83kg contract and I want to have a battle to the death with a world-class fighter."
"We, as DSE, are betting on these three fighters, Gomi, Minowa and Chonan, and expect them to carry the BUSHIDO flag," Sakakibara ended the conference. "How will they respond to both our expectations and that of the fans? Chonan performed well against Newton. As the promoter, we wanted him to win by a KO or submission but he still did well. We expect him to show the average fan that speed, technique and excitement of an under 83kg fight."