INTERVIEW WITH KENICHI YAMAMOTO
07/21/2004

Kenichi Yamamoto will come back to the PRIDE ring after a year and a half away. This time he will face another U-FILE wrestler, Ikuhisa Minowa.

 

       

 

Pride Fighting Championships: It's been 1.5 years since you fought in PRIDE 25. It didn't look like you were satisfied with the Otsuka fight.
Kenichi Yamamoto: I wanted to fight on New Year's Eve last year but it never happened. Regardless, I've continued to practice and compete in muay thai.
Yamamoto: My conditioning is really good this year. I feel like I can finally move again. In my last 2 fights in PRIDE, I wasn't ready to fight. This year, I feel like I can fight any time. I knew that if I kept training like I should, they would contact me eventually. I was just preparing for that chance and that's why I'm in good shape. If I can keep from being injured until the fight, I think this will be one of my best fights in recent years. Minowa is an aggressive fighter. We've both got a lot of experience and there will be a lot of PRIDE on the line. I knew what the promoters wanted and expected when the offer came. There aren't many Japanese vs. Japanese fights in PRIDE and I was willing to do it.
Pride: Minowa is also a former U-FILE wrestler. He's your junior, actually. Does it bother you that he has gotten so much attention?
Yamamoto: No. It's his turn to get the attention. He was the main event last time, too. It's been 10 years since I made my debut. I've experience a lot of ups and downs since my debut and the past few years have been tough. There was a period where I thought I would just cease to exist as a fighter. Thanks to the help of many people, I was able to return to my current condition. I have to pay them, and my remaining fans, back.
Pride: What do you feel when you see Minowa fight?
Yamamoto: He fights with spirit. It seems like he doesn't think much when he fights but rather, fights with instinct. That's why I think this match will be a battle of spirits. He also has put a lot on the line in his life to get here. I think there will be more to this fight than just the physical side. Neither of us wants to lose. Both of us can't win in PRIDE though, so I'm sure he wants to be the winner. I think that, because they offered the fight, they have high hopes for me. Sakakibara said at the press conference that there is something everyone needs to think about as we face the 4th BUSHIDO event. They put together this great card and I want to fulfill their expectations.
Pride: BUSHIDO is in danger of being discontinued, as Takada and Sakakibara said. This is your first appearance in BUSHIDO but how do you feel about what they said?
Yamamoto: I'm always in danger. I get a lot of good jobs with organizations that are in danger. (laughing) I don't plan on ending BUSHIDO. I understand the BUSHIDO concept and the promoter's wishes. I want to be in my best condition so I can fully live up to their expectations.
Pride: Have you been watching since the first BUSHIDO?
Yamamoto: I've watched them all live. That's why I understand what Takada and Sakakibara were talking about. They have provided a huge stage. All of the Japanese fighters train very hard so if the results aren't good, then the problem has to be with their spirit. Minowa has lost in PRIDE but I think it's because of his spirit that he gets more fights. Even if he loses, people still have hope for him as a pro. We have to be more like him, be more professional, because the fans are coming out and paying their money to see that. That's what I felt like we were being told.
Pride: Do you want to take down Minowa, who has been BUSHIDO's main event, and put yourself on the top of the BUSHIDO mountain?
Yamamoto: I want to show what I have learned over these 10 years, rather than worrying about taking him down. Both of us have a lot more to learn. If we can get everyone excited about BUSHIDO through our fight, we will be able to keep on going.
Pride: So you feel some sympathy for Minowa?
Yamamoto: Yes, I do. He's got his own reasons for fighting in BUSHIDO. I believe in him and I think he's a smart fighter. If he can show that much spirit in that kind of ring, he's a great fighter.
Pride: Finally, a few words for the fans.
Yamamoto: I know that times are hard for everyone but Minowa and I will make it worth your time if you watch.