THE NEW PRIDE - SAKAKIBARA, TAKADA INTERVIEWS
06/12/2003

President Sakakibara

PRIDE REBORN
PRIDE 26 was called REBORN in Japan. We wanted to take a second look at how we came this far and return to our origins. What do the fans want? What do the fights want in the fight? We've got to take these things into consideration. There may be fans that are happy just to see someone appear all the time or maybe they want to see highly skilled matches. Some fans said the screens at Yokohama Arena were hard to see. Some fans said they couldn't see because of the person's head in front of them. So, we set out to do what we could to fix these things. So, we put in 2 giant screen TVs. Even small things like this can really improve the environment for the fans.

PRIDE 26
I think you'll agree with me that we put together a very good card for this match. I think there were a lot of high quality fighters. The fans are smart and you've got to show them the real thing. It's a must. Of course, you might be able to create a story around the fight but at its base, the fighter's skill, defense and attacks will make the fight what it is. I want the fighters to make themselves into the best, in a mental sense and a technical sense. Take Mirko for example. He really wanted to appear in PRIDE. He trains very hard, very seriously. That's why he's called the Terminator. Sakuraba is also like that. To get in the ring and fight like the do, in a way that no one can possibly imitate, it take tremendous effort and training. I really feel that from Mirko. I don't think he's just playing around in MMA while being a pure stand-up fighter. He came here with the intent of become a complete fighter and the top fighter in PRIDE.

COMING PRIDES
There were 14 fighters in 7 matches this time. There were a lot of fighters who wanted to fight but we couldn't give everybody a chance. If you're lazy or doing fights that look like works, there are a lot of replacement fighters waiting, even if you're a regular. It won't be based on our decisions alone, either. We'll also make changes based upon the needs of the fans. It's good to cycle the fighters. There's also another pressing job for Dream State and for the martial arts world. I want the Japanese fighters to work harder. Hamanaka and Takase had high hurdles. Can they produce good results and get another chance to fight? Yoshida's student, Nakamura, who fought last time, showed a lot of potential but unfortunately, doesn't have enough experience. I think that's going to become important.

PRIDE's NEW BRAND
We were prepared to have Igor Vovchanchyn fight but he wasn't able due to his July 7th fight in Holland. We've got Brazilian Top Team's Mario Sperry and Rogerio Nogueira and also Gary Goodridge and Tom Erikson, who were seconding Mark Coleman. They said they would fight if there was a cancellation. We also had some Japanese fighters that paid there way back to Japan from other countries to say the same thing. Fighters who want to be in PRIDE are highly motivated. We want to provide an arena that will pay proper respect to that feeling. Rather than THE BEST, we're thinking of adding a second line to PRIDE. There are a lot of themes that we'd like to make but primarily it will be a spotlight for PRIDE Lightweight division, centering on the 70 -80 kilo class. We also want to bring up Japanese fighters there. We've already said that we want to have a Grand Prix every year but it's getting hard to create new concepts for each and every event and match. We want to create this second line in the fall. This will be held as a series every year. The title isn't fixed yet. We still want to put some more though into the overall concept, first.


Special Rules?
Most likely it will be under PRIDE rules. If we said cross-guard is forbidden or you can only use open-guard on the ground, the stand-up fighters would get really upset (laughing) so we're planning on using the regular PRIDE rules from the start.

THE BEST?
It will be held as before.

Will PRIDE-class fighters be in this new event?
Yes, it's possible.

CURRENT LIGHTWEIGHT CLASS
Of course there are organization considerations but I'm interested in Sakurai and Rumina. Pancrase also has a lot of great fighters. It's important to fight within your organization but it's also good to have a neutral ring to fight in, too. Also, the UFC's Kaoru Uno and Genki Sudo. That's not the only place to fight. There are several current fighters that I'd like to see. It's tough on lightweight fighters when most of their opponents are middle and heavyweights. It's for that reason that we want to put a spotlight on the lightweight class.

SCHEDULE
We'd like to have these lightweight-centered events 3 or 4 times per year, 2 events in America per year and 3 events within Japan per year. Well, that's just our plan.

Nobuhiko Takada, PRIDE General Manager

PRIDE 26
Just before the fight, Mirko said that PRIDE is easy. After hearing that, Herring got pretty worked up. It's important for the fighters to work their feelings against each other. Then they can get in the ring and give an unusually tough fight and that will make the fans happy. Fedor and Fujita were the same way. The fans need to see that effort from the first fight to the last fight. The most important thing is to attack. Attack and win. Move and win. The fans can get into that kind of fight.

ANOTHER LINE
This should have been done 2 or 3 years ago. We had THE BEST but there was no real concept and it wasn't done properly. This time we are going to create and event with strong foundations, somewhere that strong Japanese fighters can be born.