On 9/29, two fights for the upcoming 10/31 PRIDE 28 (Saitama Super Arena) were announced at the Tokyo Dream Stage Entertainment office. In addition to the already reported main event, the Middleweight Championship match between Wanderlei Silva and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Mirko Filipovic and Josh Barnett will square off in a battle of the giants.
Mirko personally requested to be able to fight Josh, one of the current great heavyweights. Nobuhiko Takada, PRIDE General Director, explained at the press conference that if Mirko can take this monster, he should be able to challenge for the PRIDE Heavyweight Championship.
"For Mirko", explained Director Takada, "this is the last trial in his quest to reach the other 2. As such, he chose a strong opponent." The "other 2" are of course, the Heavyweight Grand Prix finalists, Fedor and Nogueira. "DSE, Josh himself and our staff all responded to this request. Mirko has to clear this final hurdle. We thought that was enough of a challenge for him but he wanted an even greater, and decisive, hurdle."
As Takada said, "both fighters have the same goal." Josh also wants to take the quickest route to reach the top two fighters. According to DSE President, Nobuyuki Sakakibara, Barnett has signed a multi-fight contract with PRIDE. "Mirko is his first match (in PRIDE) but Josh has his sights set even further down the line." There's no doubt that the winner of this match will become a contender for the Championship.
At present, DSE is negotiating with both fighters to hold the decisive match of the Heavyweight Grand Prix in their upcoming New Year's Eve show. DSE wants both fighters to be in their best shape but as Takada explained, "I can't say anything until there is a clear winner. I'd like to see either Mirko or Barnett challenge for the Heavyweight Championship on New Year's Even or in February of next year."
Barnett's path to PRIDE was also explained by President Sakakibara. He was originally a candidate for the Heavyweight Grand Prix. Unfortunately, conflicts arose and he wasn't able to participate. "At that time, Barnett said that although he can't fight in the Grand Prix, he would fight in PRIDE eventually. Now we have made that fight reality. Mirko's win in August was big but taking the shortest path can also be the most dangerous path. Both Mirko, the fans, the press and of course, ourselves, believe that Josh is the most appropriate opponent."
"Josh isn't interested in anyone besides the top 3", Sakakibara continued. "He's been asking us for awhile to let him fight them so I'm sure he's happy that his wish has been granted. Mirko's way of thinking is that he doesn't care who his opponent is, as long as he's fitting, considering Mirko's goals. When we asked him, he just said "okay.""
"Whether it's the contents of the fight or the background," Takada explained. "The theme is everything. When the fans and the press feel the theme, they can feel the heat. In that sense, this card is packed with themes. First, both of these fighters have a blue-eyed samurai image. They are foreign fighters but they have very Japanese-like qualities in their lives and appearances. For us, it's like Japanese versus Japanese. Additionally, these two fighters are among the top fighters in the world."
Barnett has returned to AMC Pankration to sharpen his fangs. The winner of this fight will take a huge leap forward while the loser falls behind. With the addition of Barnett, the Heavyweight battlefield has become even tougher.
I don't plan on letting Henderson push me around.
I'll beat him, get my ticket to the GP and go on to New Year's Eve.
Kazuhiro Nakamura is on fire after beating Murilo Bustamante in the previous event and is preparing for next year's planned Middleweight Grand Prix. Another opponent has stepped forward and "Kazu" will have to deal with him first.
DSE General Director Nobuhiko Takada set the tone. "If Kazu can defeat Bustamante and Henderson, he won't be just a good Japanese fighter. He will be in the top class among the Middleweight division. He'll automatically get to fight in the Middleweight Grand Prix and be included in the big New Year's Eve event. It's a huge fight for him. For us, there aren't many Japanese competitive on the world-level so we want him to win well and turn the GP on its head."
Hearing that, Kaz responded, "I don't plan on letting Henderson push me around. I'm not doing this to 'gain experience'. I want to beat him and be respected when I enter the New Year's Eve event and the Middleweight Grand Prix next year. I will definitely win." Asked what he thought about Henderson, Kaz replied, "When he's going for the kill, he goes all out. He never lets his guard down. I know that he was in the Olympics twice, even though I didn't make it."
If Kaz beats Henderson, who would deny that he is a top-class fighter? All that's left now is to see if Kaz has what it takes to beat Dan Henderson.
PRIDE 28 is scheduled to have 7~8 matches. The remainder of the card will be announced as soon as it is decided.
Participation from the following fighters is planned for PRIDE 28:
Among these fighters, Director Takada has announced that Hunt's participation has been agreed to already.