A press conference was held on December 23rd at Dream Stage Entertainment's headquarters to announce three fights for the upcoming December 31st PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2003 show. Two former Pancrase fighters, Ikuhisa Minowa and the current Pancrase Light-Heavyweight Champion, Yuki Kondo, will stand in the PRIDE ring. Additionally, PRIDE FC's gatekeeper, Gary Goodridge, will fight in his retirement match.
The battle for the New Year's Eve spotlight continues and PRIDE FC has started firing back, as some very big Japanese names will be appearing on the SHOCKWAVE card.
Yuki Kondo ... He's Pancrase's fighter ace and defeated Sanae Kikuta on 11/30 to become the "King Of Pancrase" Light-Heavyweight Champion. After seeing the fight, DSE President Nobuyuki Sakakibara declared it as the best Japanese vs. Japanese fight of the year.
His opponent in PRIDE FC, is none other than the head of the Brazilian Top Team, Mario Sperry. Sperry suffered a recent loss to the younger Murilo "Ninja" Rua, but is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu master with victories over such formidable opponents as Igor Vovchanchyn, Wataru Sakata and Andrei Kopylov.
Although Kondo's appearance was arranged rather quickly, he remains confident. "I was already training as if I would have a fight. Nothing changes because my opponent has been decided. My training theme is to be able to fight anyone, anytime." Finally the curtain will be opened and PRIDE FC fans will be able to see the flying-knee and "the brute", Kondo's vicious left hook, that took out Kikuta in one hit. It looks like Kondo may have his eyes set on PRIDE FC's Middleweight Champion, Wanderlei Silva, too. "I don't want to just have one fight and say, okay, that's it. I want to connect this fight with something in the future." If he gets through Sperry, Silva will be one step closer. Kondo is generally thought of as being one of a very small handful of Japanese fighters that have a chance at beating Silva.
The second Pancrase fighter is the man who calls himself a "real pro-wrestler", Ikuhisa Minowa. He left the Pancrase organization in May of this year, traveled to Brazil and is now returning to Japan to fight after a 6-month training session with the Brazilian Top Team. "He is one of the best, young Japanese fighters," President Sakakibara commented about Minowa, "He went to Brazil, without being able to speak the language, and successfully trained with the Brazilian Top Team. That is no easy task. He is a fighter that DSE has been after for a long time." The President of his former organization, Ozaki, readily agreed to his appearance and Minowa has earned his first chance to climb into the PRIDE FC ring.
It will not be an easy climb, however. His opponent will be Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, who placed second in the PRIDE Grand Prix 2003. President Sakakibara seems confident about the newest fighter to PRIDE FC, "Minowa is 85kg and Rampage is 95kg. There is a weight difference but if there is anyone who can make up for it, it's Minowa." Minowa himself has long expressed a desire to fight bigger opponents, "Pro-wrestlers have to fight opponents of all sizes. A small guy's victory over a huge guy is the greatest win."
Both fighters are skillful in their use of the power-bomb and fans will have to pay close attention to see which one will slam, and which will be slammed.
Also of interest in the Shockwave show, PRIDE FC's gatekeeper, Gary Goodridge, active since PRIDE 1, is going to hold his retirement fight. According to "Big Daddy," the damage he has acquired over his years in fighting and the physical and mental damage he received in his loss against Fedor in August brought him to the decision to retire.
It was Goodridge who brought the offer to DSE. "I want to fight again. I want my last fight to be against someone tough." His opponent, it turns out, is one of the toughest men alive, Don Frye. Frye has lost only once in the UFC and as one of the toughest guys in PRIDE FC, he had no choice but to accept. Both sides agreed upon the fight very quickly. Said Goodridge, "With Frye as my opponent, I'm sure it will be a fitting final match." Gary Goodridge, a man who has devoted his life to PRIDE FC, will step into the PRIDE FC ring and stand before his fans for the final time as a true man and as PRIDE FC's gate keeper.
This now brings the total number of matches for PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2003 to six matches. Excluding Sakuraba, there are 2 more Japanese fighters that may participate in the scheduled 10 fights. "I want to start announcing the fights tomorrow, as soon as they are finalized." (Pres. Sakakibara)