Following the public signing ceremony and weigh-ins for the PRIDE Middleweight title match on November 30 th , DSE President Nobuyuki Sakakibara announced that Greco-Roman wrestling Olympic gold (Sydney) and bronze (Athens) medalist, Rulon Gardner, would participate in this year's New Year's Eve event.

According to Sakakibara, negotiations with Gardner began one year ago. Following the end of the Athens Olympics, and after he decided not to compete in the next Olympics, (Gardner) decided to become the greatest in his new life and see how far his wrestling would take him. Gardner is currently training in MMA with fellow Greco-Roman wrestler, Dan Henderson, at Team Quest.

There are big expectations for Gardner, a giant among athletes. "We've signed a multi-year contract with Gardner," Sakakibara explained. "Although we haven't decided when it will be held, we would like for him to participate in the next PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix. I think he has the body and potential to take on the top 3 heavyweight fighters."

Gardner has said that he wants to fight PRIDE's top class fighters and Sakakibara appears ready to let him, "Judo, jujitsu, wrestling, boxing. How will he fight with fighters from different styles? I want to put a card together with different martial arts. Personally, I'd like to see a Japanese fighter take him on." Possible candidates are Naoya Ogawa and Hidehiko Yoshida, both Japanese heavyweight fighters. The current plan is to begin negotiations about possible opponents once Gardner has come to Japan.




Rulon Gardner

33 years old. Born on August 16, 1971 in Wyoming, USA. 188cm. 120kg. Beat the "strongest man alive" Alexander Karelin, a wrestler undefeated for 13 years, in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Gardner went on to win the World Championship the next year, proving that his win over Karelin was no fluke. In February of 2002, Gardner suffered frostbite in the mountains of Wyoming and had to have a toe on his right foot removed. However, he was back in top form after a year of rehabilitation and surprised the world when he went on to gain a bronze medal at the Athens Olympics. Gardner has a strong will that never gives up, in addition to wrestling techniques well-balanced between offense and defense.