A press conference was held in Takada Dojo on December 9th, in advance of Kazushi Sakuraba's 4th match up against Wanderlei Silva, to be held at the December 31st New Year's Eve event. Sakuraba recently missed a press conference on November 30 due to "over sleeping" but the truth, it seems, was different...
It turns out that the reason Sakuraba didn't show up for the press conference was because of a back injury. According to the PRIDE General Director, Nobuhiko Takada, Sakuraba began his normal practice around noon on the day of the press conference. However, he had an unintentional accident around 1:30pm, while sparring. When he lifted his opponent up during a tackle, he hurt his back.
Sakuraba was in bad condition and unable to stand for a full hour, he was carried by his manager, Imamura, junior fighters from the Dojo and his personal trainer to a nearby clinic. After undergoing many tests such as x-rays and CT scans, it was determined that he had a serious lumbar vertebra sprain. Hearing the results, Imamura quickly contacted Takada, who was in New York at the time. "Since we can't say anything about Saku's condition, don't go to the press conference," Takada ordered. "Take more tests, watch his condition and buy time." It was then reported to DSE that Sakuraba had overslept.
Following that, Sakuraba hasn't been able to keep up with his daily life. Today, Takada commented "He's still recovering now but his switch will probably be reset in time for New Year's Eve."
"It's been getting better since one week ago and I've been working out with light weights. I should be able to move around while training from next week," said Sakuraba. "My conditioning will be back after a week." Sakuraba was in good spirits this day and did not seem to be in much of a hurry, "I was only upset on the day I got hurt. After that, my feelings changed. I always seem to get hurt before my fights so this is nothing unusual. I've been able to rest my body quite a bit so now I feel like working out hard."
Takada worried reporters a little when asked about Sakuraba's so-called "Sakle" (Sakuraba's special low-tackle) when he commented, "as long as he doesn't pick (Silva) up, (Sakuraba) will be fine," but quickly added, "He has many different variations so it's no problem."
What will happen now that Sakuraba has made his back troubles public? "My back hurts so I'll probably turn my back to him," Sakuraba answered, turning his injury into a strategy. "If Silva tries to get back position, that'll be a good position for me to be in. It'll be rough if he starts punching me, though." (laughing) One other time bomb that Sakuraba's carrying around with him is his injured knees. "They've gotten better since I started running," he replied with confidence. "They are about 80~90% better."
"When I get to the event, I really want to fight," Sakuraba explained. "Honestly, I'd like to rest a little more, though. It was clear that Takada was suffering along with his favorite student, "Four or five years ago, he would say he wants to fight every month. Now he says he'll only fight once a year."
"When I thought about who I want to fight and who I want to beat, there was no one but Silva," Sakuraba said about his 4th match up against the PRIDE Middleweight Champion. He didn't have much to say about what he thinks of Silva, though, "He always gives good fights so I think he's a good athlete. That's all."
Apparently, Sakuraba has even developed a strategy for the striker Silva, "I've got a technique that I've been able to use about 90% of the time in sparring recently. It's something I can do standing or on the ground. Even if you think I'm going for something, I'm actually going for your arm and your neck. When you try to defend one, you'll get caught in the other. It's called 'the cousin'." Asked where the name came from, Sakuraba explained that he got it from watching a TV soap opera. However, "I missed last night's episode so if he uses the technique on me, I could be in trouble."(laughing)
It's hard to believe anything Sakuraba says but he seems confident, as usual, before his bout with Silva. All that's left is to see whom fate will be kindest to and whose techniques will win in the end, Silva's striking or Sakuraba's 'cousin'.