A press conference was held in Tokyo on June 18th to announce that Hidehiko Yoshida will fight in the upcoming middleweight tournament, PRIDE GP 2003. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Kazushi Sakuraba and the current Middleweight Champion, Wanderlei Silva, are also scheduled to fight. Additionally, one member of the Gracie family and a representative of the UFC are scheduled to fight. Attention is now on who will be the remaining 4 fighters and will most likely be announced in mid-June.




Hidehiko Yoshida: Good afternoon. Although you reporters gathered here today are probably surprised at this, I can assure you that I am the most surprised. (laughing) When I first got the offer from DSE, I thought it would be for a one-match fight. Listening a little more carefully, I realized that they were asking me if I would fight in the middleweight tournament. I really had to think about it. Middleweight is 93 kilos and below but I'm about 100 kilos so I'd have to lose a lot of weight. However, as a martial artist, I want to fight strong fighters. That's why I decided to fight. I want to test myself among strong fighters. I'm sure it will be difficult to lost weight and other problems too but I will do my best to give the fans great matches.
Pride Fighting Championships: Will you be returning to the weight you were in your judo days?
Yoshida: I've only fought in heavyweight bouts until now so I was putting on a lot of weight. Now I'm slimming down. I had to lose weight when I was in Judo as well so I don't think it will be too bad for me.
PRIDE: Who do you want to fight in the opening round?
Yoshida: Everyone is really strong so....anyone will be fine.
PRIDE: Mr. Takada, what do you think of a possible match up between Yoshida and Sakuraba?
Nobuhiko Takada: I wouldn't have thought it possible until just recently. I think this is a super card, a dream card. This is part of the Dream Stage concept, providing cards that will set the fans on fire. I think it's going to be a great fight but like Pandora's box, you never know what's going to happen until you open it.
PRIDE: What will the rest of the card look like?
Sakakibara: The voice of the fans is the most important thing. We are reviewing the surveys we gave out at the last fight and will use that as an aid in choosing the remaining 4 fighters. We'll announce the remaining 4 fighters in June and I hope to be able to announce the match ups for the first-round.
PRIDE: Mr. Yoshida, Takase said that he would like to fight (in the GP) at his last match. Does your entry rule out an appearance by him?
Yoshida: I haven't spoken to Takase about it. I don't think it would be my fault if he couldn't fight. That's not something that a fighter decided. The promoters decide those things and I'm sure that Takase realizes this.
PRIDE: What is the most weight you've ever lost and what will you be most careful of in the tournament?
Yoshida: I will only need to drop 7 or 8 kilos this time. I used to drop 10 or 12 kilos for judo so this should be much easier. I'm not really worried about it because if I watch what I eat, it will come off naturally. I think "speed" will be a much greater factor since it will be a tournament for middleweights. I probably won't be able to take them to ground as I have before. I am working on ways around that.
PRIDE: What's your impression of Wanderlei and Sakuraba?
Yoshida: Sakuraba is a very strong fighter among the Japanese. Wanderlei is the current Middleweight Champion. He's been in MMA longer than me so I cannot forget that I am the challenger.
PRIDE: It seemed one of your big goals in judo was to win the open weight class division. What is the motivation for losing weight and entering the middleweight tournament?
Yoshida: Well, I had to think it over for a while because I do have to lose weight to fight. However, I figure that if I will never get another chance at it if I let this one get away. I haven't quit being a heavyweight. I know that they will also have a heavyweight tourney next year too... Anyway, my motivation is to lay it all on the line for this tourney, this year.

Sakakibara's post-press conference comments

T he final match will be on 11/9 at the Tokyo Dome. (when asked about other fighters) We've had a lot of people telling us that they want to fight. Dana White, President of the UFC, said that he wants to send a representative of the UFC. I believe that we'll see a champion level fighter from them. (Ryan Gracie's picture is on the Grand Prix poster...) It hasn't been decided that Ryan will fight. Renzo has said that he would like to fight. As far as name value goes, Arona, Alistair, Rogerio (Nogueira) are all possible candidates for the remaining for slots. Of course, there may be additional Japanese fighters as well. Tamura or Kikuta and Kondo from Pancrase. After all, it is in Japan so we might as well have one more Japanese fighter. At any rate, what we want to do is may the fans' voice a reality. (Did DSE contact Yoshida about this first?) Yes. I think he will probably fight in the heavyweight tournament next year but there won't be another middleweight tournament for 2 years. (How will the tournament be arranged?) I'd like to have a drawing. I'd like to have a drawing open to the public. We don't want people who say that want to fight this guy or they don't want to fight that guy. We need fighters who are willing to take a chance. I also want to give the fighters a month to get ready so we hope to have the remaining 4 fighters named during this month.