"I don't mind fighting in an open-weight class." Olympic gold medalist, Makoto Takimoto, shows courage in his December 7th press conference. Takimoto (29, freelance), winner of a judo gold medal in the 81kg division at the Sydney Olympics, suddenly announced that he will make his professional MMA debut at the December 31st 2004 PRIDE New Year's Eve show. "I don't care who my opponent is," Takimoto said. "Weight doesn't matter."
This makes the 3rd gold medalist on the New Year's Eve card. Pride General Director, Nobuhiko Takada, normally adlibs his opening greetings at press conferences but he was unable to hide his excitement that such a big name fighter was coming to PRIDE and he came to the conference with script in hand, "This is a very important meeting so there's no way I can just adlib my way through it." "Congratulations to Takimoto, who turned 30 yesterday," Takada continued. "Yesterday was an auspicious day for him and today, I believe, is a day that he meets his destiny. First, welcome to PRIDE! I want to express my respect and gratitude that you have decided to step into this harsh ring. I'm sure it was difficult for Takimoto to once again walk the path of battle, after having earned a gold medal in the Sydney Olympics and climbed judo's highest peak. This ring is a harsh, cruel ring. Here, you can win everything or lose it all. However, I can guarantee that when you make your PRIDE entrance and stand in that ring, you'll see a spectacle that you have never witnessed before. Please, Takimoto, give us a fight to show us what you are made of."
After giving the above greeting to Takimoto, Takada explained the circumstances leading to Takimoto's participation. Talks with Takimoto were originally about making his debut next year but after he attended PRIDE 28 on October 31, he said that he could feel the heat there and if he was going to fight, he should do it where all eyes will be focused on New Year's Eve. "Now he will the one making the heat, rather just feeling it," Takada explained. "I'm sure he will be compared to many different fighters, including fellow judoka Hidehiko Yoshida, but I hope that Takimoto will fight as only he can." "If there are fighters out there that want to fight him, they should raise their hands," Takada said about possible opponents. "I expect someone to represent their style, from a different style of martial arts. The rules, of course, will be PRIDE rules." According to Takada, Takimoto said something to him during there discussions that left an impression, "I'm not choosing this ring as a judoka. I chose this ring as one man and as one human." "He's a man among men in the judo world," Takada said. "I believe that he will become a man among men at the top of the professional fight world, too." Encouraged by Takada, Takimoto stood up with a greeting, "Talk about participating in PRIDE started with a recommendation in mid-October from Yoshida. He's been here before and my friends are also here, so I've always been interested. That's why I decided to fight. We were talking about making my debut next year but I decided that I wanted to do it on New Year's Eve, when everyone will be watching. My friend told me that if you compared PRIDE to baseball, it would be the Major League. If I'm going to fight, I want to fight with the best so those words also affected my decision to fight and if I'm going to fight, I want to win no matter who my opponent is."
Pride Fighting Championships:
What was your motivation to do mixed martial arts (MMA)?
I've been doing judo since I was little, competing in many matches that were called "the greatest" and even won at the Olympics as an amateur. It was like I was competing in the same matches everyday, aiming for the top. Honestly, that is no longer interesting for me. When I saw PRIDE, and the excitement, I thought from the bottom of my heat that this is interesting, this is what I want to do, and that's how this came about.
Takada also seemed strengthened by Takimoto's strong words, "Saying, without hesitation, that he's not nervous shows the strength of his heart. I'm confident that he'll fulfill our expectations, no matter who his opponent is. (DSE President) Sakakibara is still overseas and I think we will decide his opponent after he returns." Asked about whether Takimoto may fight in next year's Middleweight Grand Prix, Takada replied, "I was talking to him about that just a moment ago. We need to decide that based on his condition at that moment, without limiting ourselves to Middleweight or Welterweight class. Takimoto himself doesn't feel any difference between classes or heavy fighters. We'll decide with that in mind later." Takimoto has left many anecdotal stories about his "strong heart" during his judo days. There're only a few days left until New Year's Eve so he will have to train at a fast pace but this may be the kind of man that can get the job done. Now there is one more thing to look forward to on New Year's Eve.