"There is one Japanese fighter that I would like to face Sakuraba, no matter what it takes, and I'd like for the media to help me." That was what Dream Stage Entertainment's President Nobuyuki Sakakibara had to say to reporters gathered at the 12/23 press conference held at DSE headquarters.

Kondo versus Sperry, Minowa versus Rampage, Goodridge versus Frye ... it was right after Sakakibara announced these fights that he really got warmed up. "There were rumors that Sakuraba's opponent would be Rogerio Nogueira. Rogerio is definitely a candidate but DSE feels that there is one guy even more appropriate for this event. We've been constantly after him, asking him what it would take to fight for us in this event. He's a Japanese fighter. We at DSE will give our absolute best but we will need the help of the fans and the media."

It was an unusual statement. Even without saying a name, it's obvious whom he's talking about. Sakuraba's mentor, PRIDE FC General Director Nobuhiko Takada, admitted that he was a man among men. To make this public appeal is a big gamble for PRIDE FC as they are still in the negotiation-stage.




Asked why the fighter didn't immediately accept the New Year's Eve fight, Sakakibara replied, "I don't know. If he has a reason, it's probably personal. He's not the kind of guy to be in a hurry just because of the money or the size of the event. He doesn't really like to fight in events with giant themes or with other Japanese fighters. But, that's exactly why we want to see him."

Sakuraba has already agreed to fight him. According to DSE, Sakuraba said he would fight him even if it weren't finalized until the 30th. If the negotiations fail though, there'll be nothing for him to do but wait and it may be trouble for the company broadcasting the event, Fuji Television. Realistically, negotiating up till the day before the fight is impossible but according to Sakakibara, he plans on pursuing this fighter until the last possible minute.

The hardheaded guy with the red shorts has already refused DSE several times, however, DSE has been refused by him before but was finally able to successfully negotiate his appearance in the past. Sakakibara says that he's going to keep on pushing the offer until he gets thrown out of the negotiating room.

Sakuraba versus the mystery fighter was the most requested match-up by the fans participating in the 11/9 fan survey at the Tokyo Dome. "This is one of the greatest Japanese match-ups ever, right up there with Yoshida versus Tamura." Sakakibara continued, "This is a card that I want to make happen at any cost."

President Sakakibara has a lot on his mind. The eyes of the martial arts world will be on the New Year's Eve fights. It seems his willingness to do anything to help the MMA world led him to ask for assistance from the media this time.

After hearing about Sakuraba, the mystery fighter said, "If the fans want it, the media wants it and we want it, and that voice is loud enough, I'll fight." The fans want it, the media wants it and his opponent, Sakuraba, wants it. The only thing left is for him to make a decision.

Additionally, President Sakakibara addressed the reports of the PRIDE FC Interim Heavyweight Champion, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's appearance in another event. "We received a request for that but we haven't held any discussions. We've officially refused to let Fedor Emelianenko participate but have decided to loan Semmy Schilt to them. DSE wants to be helpful and share our strengths as much as possible but they cannot continue to decide things in such a one-sided manner. Nothing has been decided at all about Nogueira's appearance."