Sentoryu will make his MMA debut in the PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix Opening Round. He spoke with us about his training over the last 2 months, his pro-football injuries and sumo career.




Pride Fighting Championships: Today we are here to gather info for the PRIDE homepage.
Henry Miller: I really like computers. I'm always checking the PRIDE website (laughing).
Pride : Thank you. What other sites to you go to?
Sentoryu : I play video games more than visiting sites. I play shooting games a lot, like Counter Strike. You can play with people across the world, even use a mic and talk to each other. I've got a team with a Dutch guy. Everybody's about half my age, though. That's why they call me "old man." (laughing) I can play until late at night on days off because of the time difference between (Japan) and Holland.
Pride : You've always liked games?
Sentoryu : Yes, I play PlayStation. I bought an X-BOX but that was a mistake. I'm thinking about selling it. (laughing). I played Matrix a lot lately but I beat it 3 times already so it's lying in my dresser.
Pride : Ok, let's get down to fighting-talk. (laughing). How much are you training every day?
Sentoryu : About 4 hours. I'm practicing striking and ground fighting at Takada Dojo. I started without knowing anything so I've been training to use my natural sumo techniques in striking. I began ground training after I learn how to move my feet and use my shoulders and how to do the guard. Once the fight was confirmed, I began MMA training.
Pride : What has been the hardest thing since you started MMA?
Sentoryu : Sometimes the fights end quickly but sometimes they take a long time. After I started training, I was surprised at how much more stamina was necessary than before. Sumo only takes about 30-60 seconds for one match but PRIDE's first round is 10 minutes and can go as long as 20 minutes. In the beginning, I was tired after about a minute of sparring (laughing).
Pride : Are you doing anything special to work on your stamina?
Sentoryu : Mr. Takada told me that if I spar with everyone, the stamina would naturally come to me. After training, I also do circuit training with Mr. (Daijiro) Matsui so I'm confident in my stamina now.
Pride : What techniques do you have confidence in?
Sentoryu : My tsuparite and harite (sumo "strikes") and of course, my power punch.
Pride : Do you feel the striking is different than sumo's?
Sentoryu : Yes and no. In sumo, you don't put your guard up when a harite comes. You just take it straight on. I think that has given me the ability to take punches. If I get punched, I feel pain but it's not damaging enough to get knocked out. And I've been working on my guard. The fighters in the GP will be a little over 100kg, right? I went head-on with guys at 150kg and 170kg when I was in sumo. I don't think I will be KO'd but I'll never know until I try. (laughing)
Pride : What about your own striking?
Sentoryu : I think I can knock people down.
Pride : In MMA, ground fighting is allowed but for you, as a sumo player, did you feel hesitant to roll around on the ground?
Sentoryu : Actually, I was a wrestler too so it wasn't a problem. There are no tackles in sumo because you lose when your knees touch the ground. (laughing) I recalled a lot of the wrestling techniques I used to use after I began my MMA training. Even today I was able to defend takedowns several times, get the mount and strike.
Pride : I heard a rumor that you haven't been taken down even once in training. Is that true?
Sentoryu : That's not true at all. (laughing). I stay up about 75% of the time.
Pride : Do you think you are suited for MMA, with your backbone of sumo and wrestling?
Sentoryu : That's a tough one. I think when you move from striking to the clinch, that's sumo. I'm not going to lose in the clinch. I've also got a big body that I can use in my sumo. I can put a lot of pressure on my opponent while moving forward so I think it's good for a sumo player to learn striking. On the other hand, if a sumo player is taken down, that's pretty much the end. I think my wrestling experience will serve me well there.
Pride : How much do you weigh?
Sentoryu : I weighed 135kg before I start training but lose 2 or 3 by the end.
Pride : How much do you play on weighing in the ring?
Sentoryu : A big body is harder to move when the fight goes to the ground, so it will be tough. There's not much time but I'd like to drop down to about 130kg. I don't want to lose my personal style, though. Sumo players get stronger by eating. (laughing)
Pride : So you plan on fighting as a sumo player?
Sentoryu : Yes. In my mind, MMA is just sumo that has had ground fighting added on. You can be as strong as you want in MMA but you won't win in sumo. I think if I could develop submission skills like Nogueira's, I'd be unbeatable. (laughing) The only concern is whether I will have enough stamina to fight under PRIDE rules.
Pride : Do you feel that sumo is the strongest martial art?
Sentoryu : Of course. I've been doing it for 15 years and sumo players are generally though of as being the strongest in Japan. I have to protect that image.
Pride : I'd like to talk about your history for a moment. What kind of kid were you?
Sentoryu : Everyone thought I was a girl until I was about 5.
Pride : Really?
Sentoryu : My dad liked bowling so I always got him to take me to the bowling alley when I was young. The people around would say "cute daughter" to my father. (laughing) It all changed when I began football at 6.
Pride : Why did you begin football?
Sentoryu : I don't remember exactly why. I know that my father recommended it to me. I also watched a lot of games on TV and thought it was cool so I just started. After that, I wanted to go pro.
Pride : What did you play?
Sentoryu : Defense. I was also the Captain. My body became big quickly after starting football. After that, the kids around me started asking for favors. I don't like to fight but when something happened, they would come to me for help. (laughing).
Pride : Then football became the center of your life?
Sentoryu : Yes. In America, if you play football in college, your chances of going pro greatly increase. That's why everybody in high school works so hard, so universities will scout them. If you don't get scouted, you have to pay your own way. I had several offers from universities when I was a junior in high school. Unfortunately, I injured my knee very badly in my senior year. After that, the scouts disappeared. I could have just joined the university as a regular student, let my injuries heal and continued football but I really didn't like that. It was my dream to become a professional footballer by my own strength and I was very proud of that. That's why I gave up football in high school.
Pride : You were doing wrestling at the same time?
Sentoryu : In America, you can play other high school sports in the off-season. When we didn't have football matches, I improved my body through wrestling but my focus was definitely football.
Pride : How did it make you feel to give up the dream you had been chasing since you were a small child?
Sentoryu : To put it directly, I regret it. Even now, I sometimes think what would have been if I had continued playing football. I think it was difficult for my parents too, not just me. Their son started playing football at 6 and was just about to be scouted in high school. I'm sure they had high expectations. They bought me new uniforms and always came to watch my games. It's a hard thing to watch your child give up his dreams. I was very depressed and my parent's didn't try to force me to continue. They just gave me kind words.
Pride : How did you get involved with sumo after that?
Sentoryu : My mother is Japanese. When I wasn't doing anything after quitting football, my mother's father said, "With that body, he can do sumo. He'll definitely get stronger." I still wanted to become a professional athlete and repay my parent's kindness and I had a lot of relatives in Japan so I decided to do sumo. I wanted to do sumo but it was tough doing things like washing senior sumo players' laundry all the time. I also injured myself severely again 2 or 3 times. I called my parents from the hospital. I had to tell them about my injury. It was my most depressed time and I said "I want to quit sumo and go back to America." Their response was different from when I was playing football, though. They said, "Injuries will heal. You can't quit." They had already experienced me giving up my dreams once and I don't think they wanted me to feel that way again. Thanks to that, I was able to continue. If it hadn't been for that, I wouldn't be in PRIDE. I'm very thankful for my parents.
Pride : Did you tell your parents that you would begin MMA?
Sentoryu : We watched the last Bushido together. I wanted to show them the new sports that I'm going to do. They were actually relieved. They said, "If this is it, our son will be fine." (laughing)