Kazushi Sakuraba, scheduled to fight Kevin Randleman at the November 9th PRIDE GP 2003 at the Tokyo Dome, held a press conference at the Takada Dojo on October 22nd.
Playing off Randleman's nickname "Donkey Kong", Sakuraba, an avid-video gamer, has declared the he will be "Mario".
Sakuraba was very clear, "I don't want you to write this up as a comeback fight." The reasoning behind that was his August 10th match against Wanderlei Silva. In Sakuraba's mind, he has no memory of his fight with Silva. "When the match was over, I thought it was still March. I had even forgotten that I had already had my birthday." That was how tough of a KO loss he took but he's not crying about past losses. Sakuraba, who's main demand is that the fight has to be fun, is upset became he wasn't able to enjoy his fight.
To Sakuraba, this fight is more of a continuation of his comeback fight. Although he isn't worried about Randleman's wrestling background, he did say that Randleman has "incredible power and could probably knock me around the ring with one punch."
The 2 fighters nearly crossed paths in the past. There was a rumor that they would fight in the first round of the first PRIDE GP in 2000. Randleman was the current UFC Heavyweight Champion and there was excitement at the possibility of this match up.
It took time but their first match up has been made a reality. Randleman lost to Rampage Jackson at the March 16th PRIDE 25 but was on a 3-fight winning streak until then. Moving up from the Middleweight division, Randleman defeated Heavyweight fighters such as Pedro Rizzo and Maurice Smith in his UFC days. Asked about his fight with Sakuraba, Randleman commented, "I'm proud to be able to fight Saku. But, this is a fight. And if it's a fight, I'm going to destroy him."
Sakuraba, on the other hand, continually referred to Randleman by his nickname, "Donkey Kong", in the press conference. Sakuraba is known to be a video-game addict and his comments followed suit. "My plan is to roll a barrel at him. I know that he's going to jump over it so that's when I'll drop kick him. I'll be Mario. Maybe I'll grow my hair out. I've also got a technique where I jump completely off the screen and complete the level. I'll use that too."
I think it's safe for us to assume that this is just Sakuraba's way of dodging questions. He'll probably have some tricky moves lined up, though. He had some serious words too. "It will probably be a tough fight...because we've got different styles. I've seen his fights several times and I always thought that I wouldn't want to fight him."
When reminded that Randleman once jumped in the UFC, landed on his head and became unable to fight, Sakuraba laughed and revealed his true feelings, "What an idiot! That's Donkey Kong, for ya'! ....but, I'd really like to win for a change."
Although Sakuraba said, "It would be nice if my match were a reserve match (for the Middleweight Grand Prix), someone was injured, I enter and won the tournament!" However, according to DSE officials, Sakuraba's match will unfortunately for him, not be a reserve match. Asked about the Nogueira/Filipovic match up, Sakuraba predicted that if "Nogueira can take Cro Cop down, Nogueira will win. It will depend on whether he can take him down or not."
Sakuraba's match up with Randleman began when he pleaded with his mentor and PRIDE General Director, Nobuhiko Takada, "I don't get excited at all by just practicing. I want to fight." Will there be a good ending waiting for Saku at the end of this game? One thing is for sure; if Sakuraba gets in trouble, he won't be able to hit the reset button this time.
Additionally, the reserve match and an additional Heavyweight match (total of 8 matches) are scheduled to be announced at the beginning of next week.