Takada Dojo has assigned a heavy task to Daijiro Matsui, Norihisa Yamamoto and Yusuke Imamura. These three will have to fight to see who will be able to appear in the October 5th PRIDE Bushido. The matches will be held in Takada Dojo. The first match, between Yamamoto and Imamura, was held on August 30th.

Nobuhiko Takada, leader of Takada Dojo explains, "It's very simple. Who is the strongest? Who is in the best condition? They fight for one ticket to Bushido." It's hard to pick a winner just by looking at the record and their current training. "PRIDE is a top-quality product and that's all we want to sell." Takada continued, "This is a big point in their lives. If they are just here to have fun, I'd rather they go home. This is an opportunity for them to show everyone that they want to be on top. I want them to show their hearts to the fans"

Kazushi Sakuraba explained the rules to the fighters. Basically, the fights would be held under PRIDE rules but striking should be at about 50% and kicking an opponent on all fours is forbidden. First round is 10 minutes and the second round is 5 minutes with no decision.




Yamamoto and Imamura step on the mat. Minoru Toyonaga serves as the referee, with Takada, Sakuraba and the next-to-fight Matsui watching on.

Both fighters kept their usual fighting styles. Imamura went for a tackle and Yamamoto came out striking. Both fighters were nervous but there was big movement at the 5-minute mark. Evading Imamura's tackle, Yamamoto gained top position. He then continued to strike Imamura for about 3 minutes, causing Imamura's nose to bleed.

Yamamoto clearly has the longer career, once being an ace in RINGS. He's got to win here in order to have a shot at climbing to the top again. As he rained down punches on his teammate, it was clear that Yamamoto had his eye on the prize.

The dojo was silent except for the breathing of the 2 fighters. Imamura got an arm-bar from the bottom on Yamamoto but couldn't finish with it. Yamamoto again took the lead in the 2nd round. Imamura came in for the clinch. Yamamoto responded with a knee, gaining top position and striking again, this time with kicks to Imamura.

Anytime that the fighters slowed down, Takada's voice could be heard "Action! You've got to move", "Imamura, work to finish or he's going to beat you", "Yamamoto, go for the finish." Looking at his face, it was clearly difficult for Takada. If he could, he would have all his students win and all of them fight in Bushido but that's not possible.

The fight ended with Yamamoto in the lead. Takada said that whoever clears this hurdle would next hard the hurdle of Bushido. Additionally, he plans to continue this style of dojo-competition if it brings out their true strengths.

Sakuraba felt that it was a difficult situation for the fighters. "It's not the same as training. Regular training is hard to do if someone is watching you all the time."

Matsui, who is scheduled to fight next, would only give an evasive "no comment."

They must beat their training partners until blood flows. They have to beat down their friends so that they can rise to the top. This is unusual for Takada Dojo members but is probably a necessary measure if Japanese fighters want to make their comeback in PRIDE. And if that's what it takes...Takada will stir things up.

Norihisa Yamamoto: It's just a regular day for me. This time it is public but this is how we practice. I always train with him so it wasn't very difficult. He's got a wrestling backbone but I'm better overall. I was calm and able to think the entire time. There's always nervousness in practice, though, so I guess in that sense I was nervous. Fighting in the ring and fighting in the dojo is different. The mat here is more slippery. You've got to be careful when you move to attack because you might slip. I think this match was a success.

Yusuke Imamura: I'm tired. That was difficult. I was nervous and all I could think of was avoiding strikes and going for takedowns. (Asked about his fight with Matsui) I'll need to move more than I did this time. I'll fight harder and I will be the one that fights in Bushido.