"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)?
Makoto Takimoto: After winning in judo at the Olympics, I also competed in the open-weight class but I began to feel limited in judo. After seeing my friends do (MMA), I began to think that I'd like to try it, too.
Pride: When did you begin MMA training?
Takimoto: From November, when I began to think about fighting. I train over-all, without just focusing on striking or groundwork.
Pride: Is there anyone in particular you want to fight?
Takimoto: There's no one weak enough that I would want to choose him. I don't have a preference except that I'd like to fight a non-judo person.
Pride: About how much do you weigh?
Takimoto: I'm moving between 83 and 85 kilograms right now. I don't care if I fight in the middleweight division or open-class. I want to fight, regardless of weight.
Pride: What are you aiming for in PRIDE?
Takimoto: First, just to be in the New Year's Eve show.
Pride: Are you going to fight with a gi?
Takimoto: Yes. I've always fought while wearing on and I think it will help me use judo techniques during the fight.
Pride: So, it was Yoshida scouting you that was your motivation to become a pro?
Takimoto: I didn't decide based just on his recommendation. It was more like me asking them to let me fight. Yoshida just asked me generally, "Why don't you try it?"
Pride: Yoshida is still involved in the judo world. Do you plan on continuing your involvement with the judo world from now on?
Takimoto: I've always been a judoka but...I haven't really thought about it. I would like to remain involved somehow, though.
Pride: You don't have any striking experience in the past. How do you feel about your current abilities?
Takimoto: I'm not completely adjusted to it but I am training. There's not to do but accustom my body to it. I'll grow with training.
Pride: Are you nervous?
Takimoto: Not at all.
Pride: Please tell use more about feeling your limits in judo.
Takimoto: 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.
Pride: Where are you training?
Takimoto: Many places.
Pride: Who's gym will you fight for?
Takimoto: I'm thinking about it.
Pride: Are you training with Yoshida?
Takimoto: Nearly every day.
Pride: Where do you practice striking?
Takimoto: At a kickboxing gym.
Pride: Do you have any experience in sambo or jujitsu?
Takimoto: Just dabbling. Basically nothing.
Pride: Have you always been interested in MMA?
Takimoto: Just watching but I never thought about fighting.
Pride: What did you think of PRIDE 28?
Takimoto: I don't know the fighters' names but Silva was great in the end.
Pride: Would you like to fight Silva eventually?
Takimoto: I would like to fight him.
Pride: What is your daily schedule like?
Takimoto: I run and lift weights in the morning and begin training from 3pm.
Pride: How would you like to win in your debut match?
Takimoto: With a KO punch.
Pride: Do you think you can KO someone?
Takimoto: Not at all. (laughing)
Pride: What judo techniques will you be able to use?
Takimoto: It depends on this situation but since there's nothing to grab on to, the techniques won't be as pretty as in judo.
Pride: There are many judoka in the New Year's Eve show. Do this bother you?
Takimoto: Not at all.
Pride: What's it like sparring with Yoshida?
Takimoto: Yoshida is stronger. I can't submit him, but he doesn't submit me. I can manage him.
Pride: Has Yoshida given you any advice?
Takimoto: If I have any worries, to come to him.

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.