A press conference was held in DSE headquarters on April 14 th , announcing 7 fights for the upcoming April 25 th PRIDE GP 2004 Opening Round. Present at the conference was a confident Stefan Leko, "I don't see anything scary about Ogawa."




Each fight has its own theme and the matching has left it hard to tell who will be the winner. A particular fight of interest is the recently confirmed Ogawa VS Leko fight. PRIDE General Director, Nobuhiko Takada, had another announcement up his sleeve.

"Leko secretly came to Japan yesterday. He's going to be here, training, until the day of the fight. We are going to provide training at Takada Dojo for him. Saku, Yamamoto and Matsui will back him up completely and get him in perfect condition to take on Ogawa."

"Speaking for myself, I think Ogawa's entrance into the GP was fate. I'm looking forward to seeing how he shows his skill, pride and motivation as a pro-wrestler, aiming to win the GP. His opponent is one of K-1's top fighters, Stefan Leko, after all. It's been 3 years since Mirko upset Fujita and Leko's K-1 record is better than Mirko's. They are going to go head-to-head so I'm looking forward to the match-up. Striking VS judo, it's probably the perfect fight."

It will be interesting to see how much Leko's training with the veteran PRIDE submission fighters at Takada Dojo will help him in his MMA debut.

"I assume Ogawa wants to prove that pro-wrestling is the best." DSE President, Nobuyuki Sakakibara, continued, "If he wants to do that, he's got to start with the best strikers. There have been many pro-wrestlers than have fell against K-1 fighters making their debut. This match was made so he can take on the opponent that would be the hardest for him."

Tournament Matches:

Fight Card
Fedor Emelianenko (Russia)
Mark Coleman (USA)
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Brazil)
Hirotaka Yokoi (Japan)
Mirko Filipovic (Croatia)
Kevin Randleman (USA)
Naoya Ogawa (Japan)
Stefan Leko (Germany)
Sergei Kharitonov (Russia)
Murilo Rua (Brazil)
Paulo Ceasar Silva (Brazil)
Stefan Leko (Germany)
Heath Herring (USA)
Yoshiki Takahashi (Japan)



Additional non-tournament match ups to be announced soon.
(Participants and Matches Subject to Change)

Then, Takada called Leko into the press conference. With a smile, Leko entered and declared, "My motivation is really good. My back hurts but it won't affect the fight. I came to win the GP." Leko has actually had hernia problems for the last 6-7 years. "It doesn't bother me. Everyone that fights has some problems, somewhere." As Leko always says, "a fight is a fight." He believes that there are no good excuses in fighting.

There was talk of DSE staff recommending that Leko not participate in the GP due to his back problems but Leko refused, saying that he was ready to go.

"I didn't know anything about him before." Leko said when asked about Ogawa, "I've studied a little since the match was finalized. I learned that I'm a better fighter. I'm definitely better than him at standing and striking. He's a judo player so I've been practicing ground work to defend against him and that's how I hurt my back. Maybe that'll be a good handicap since I'm better in everything."

Asked if there was anything Ogawa could do that he was worried about, Leko replied with a laugh, "I don't see anything scary about Ogawa." Actually, when Leko's GP appearance was confirmed, he made the comment, "Since this is my PRIDE debut, everyone is a dangerous opponent. Except for pro-wrestlers, of course." It's clear that Leko doesn't think much of pro-wrestlers and their fighting abilities. No doubt Ogawa will be less than thrilled to hear Leko's comments.

Sakakibara correctly pointed out that pro-wrestlers have a long history of getting beat by strikers making their MMA debut. Will this be just another addition to that list?

It's not that Leko's just underestimating Ogawa. Leko himself requested to train with Sakuraba at Takada Dojo and even came to Japan early so he could prevent fighting with jetlag. He was also training in ground fighting with Heath Herring, Alistair Overeem and others in Holland.

Finally, this is how Takada sees the Ogawa/Leko match. "Leko is practicing ground fighting and Ogawa is practicing striking but the way to win is fighting from you base. I think Leko's punches may be better than Mirko's. Every other fighter is aware that, in a sense, he's more dangerous than Mirko. Trading strikes with him is a dangerous bet. Ogawa will want to take the fight to the mat and Leko will want to win on his feet. I think that's where the fight will be decided."

Sakakibara also asked for a few more days before confirming the final GP participant and the fighters for the reserve match. Ron Waterman and Gan McGee have already been confirmed but there are plans to add 1-2 more fighters.