A press conference regarding the New Year's Eve PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2003 was held in Tokyo on December 1st. With three different fighting events broadcasting on the same night, a lot of attention has been placed on PRIDE. PRIDE's first shot of the battle was fired here with the announcement of a rematch between Hidehiko Yoshida and Royce Gracie.

Their connection began in August of last year. It was the pro-debut for Hidehiko Yoshida, an Olympic Gold Medalist and his first opponent was none other than Royce Gracie. The official account was that Yoshida beat Royce by choking him unconscious with a sleeve-choke. However, it was not so simple. As soon as the referee stopped the fight, Royce was on his feet, declaring that he was not out. Additionally, he protested that the fight should be declared a no-contest on the grounds that the contract forbid referee stops. Unfortunately for Royce, the decision was not overturned.

Since then, Royce has continued to petition PRIDE for rematch. Although he was not scheduled to fight in October's PRIDE Bushido, when he heard that Yoshida would be Team Japan's coach, he came to Japan as the coach of Team Gracie and challenged Yoshida, "Yoshida, don't run from me. That fight isn't finished yet."

Royce's request was finally realized and a rematch was set-up. Yoshida also had a lot of motivation for their fight, "I feel that fight isn't over yet. Honestly, I've got some injuries but I will fight through them. I want to settle everything this time."

Their last match-up had no striking to the face while standing and no striking on the ground at all. This time however, the match will be held under regular PRIDE rules. However, the rounds are expected to be unlimited 10-minute rounds with no doctor stops and no referee stops, similar to the Sakuraba/Royce fight. This will be a decisive fight.

Regarding the event's concept, DSE President Sakakibara commented, "We don't plan on losing the New Year's Eve battle. I think PRIDE has shown the true face of fighting men this year. I was that face to be out there on New Year's Eve as well." PRIDE has Wanderlei Silva, who won the November 9th Grand Prix, and Antonio Nogueira schedule to fight and it looks like it will be a line-up of PRIDE All-Stars."

PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada also gave an explanation regarding the absence of Kazuhiro Sakuraba, who was scheduled to attend the conference. "Sakuraba really wants to fight on New Year's Eve. However, it is true that his right leg is injured. I think that he is having a little trouble now, both physically and mentally." Takada also explained that there would be an announcement soon to announce whether Sakuraba will actually fight on New Year's Eve.




Pride Fighting Championships: What is your condition like now?
Hidehiko Yoshida: I've only done light training since the fight in November. The real training will start from today.
PRIDE: What do you think of your fight with Silva?
Yoshida: Everyone tells me that it was a good fight but I feel nothing but regret. If you don't win, you are a loser.
PRIDE: And the fight with Royce?
Yoshida: I want this fight to decide everything. He had some objections the last time so I want to completely choke him out or submit him this time.
PRIDE: Have the rules been decided yet?
Sakakibara: Striking will be under normal PRIDE rules. There won't be any referee stops or doctor stops. The rounds are still under consideration but it will probably be like the Sakuraba vs. Royce fight. Basically, under vale tudo rules.
PRIDE: Would you accept unlimited rounds?
Yoshida: Of course.
Sakakibara: There are also television considerations. If they will fight 5 hours for us, we only need this one fight! (laughing) Regardless of the number of rounds, I want them to fight like men.
PRIDE: If there are unlimited rounds, do you think your fighting style will change?
Yoshida: I don't think it's really relevant. If I need to strike, I will. I want to finish this. That's all I want to do.
PRIDE: What about Sakuraba?
Takada: There have been reports that Sakuraba is wondering whether to fight or not. That is not true. The only thing Sakuraba wants to do is fight. Despite his desires, the condition of his right instep is not very good. He's troubled now because of that, both physically and mentally. I think there will be an answer within a few days.
P ost-Conference Q&A with President Sakakibara
PRIDE: What is happening with the card?
Sakakibara: It's being constructed as we speak. We've made many offers and expect it to be fixed within a week.
PRIDE: There have been rumors of a 4th match up between Silva and Sakuraba.
Sakakibara: I know that Sakuraba would like to fight Silva again but I don't want to let them do too much. Silva just had surgery on his elbow and to be honest, I don't want him to have a hard fight right now.
PRIDE: What kind of card will it be?
Sakakibara: I want it to be a card that shows what it means to be a man. It will be around 8 or 9 fights.
PRIDE: Will there be more revenge matches?
Sakakibara: Not necessarily.
PRIDE: Will Yoshida and Royce be the main fight?
Sakakibara: I don't know yet. We've won't be able to beat (K-1's) viewer rate for Akebono VS. Sapp. I'm sure that will be their final match so we have to work around that.
PRIDE: There's also been talk of Nogueira fighting in Inoki's event.
Sakakibara: Won't happen. That's just the newspapers making up stories. Nogueira has an exclusive contract with PRIDE. So, there's no chance of him fighting in another ring. Mirko, on the other hand, doesn't have an exclusive contract. However, no one knows if the Inoki Event will continue to be held next year and Mirko himself has expressed an interested in fighting Fedor and gaining the PRIDE Heavyweight belt so I'm sure he will continue to participate in PRIDE.
PRIDE: What does next year's schedule look like?
Sakakibara: We are planning to hold the Opening Round of the Heavyweight Grand Prix in April with the Final Round in June. If those dates don't work out exactly, I still want to have the Grand Prix finished by August.
PRIDE: What about Las Vegas?
Sakakibara: We are planning to have an event there on March 26th.
PRIDE: It's going to be a tight schedule for the Heavyweights.
Sakakibara: Yes, it certainly will be. If Nogueira fights on New Year's Eve, we may not have the title match in February and have a Fedor/Mirko fight instead. We are concentrating on making the Heavyweight Grand Prix a success next year. I think this will bring out new strengths in all 3 of them.