Nobuhiko Takada, PRIDE General Manager, held a press conference on May 21st to announce additions to the card for PRIDE 26, to be held in the Yokohama Arena on June 8th. New additions include Mirko Cro Cop, Heath Herring, Ricardo Arona, Alistair Overeem, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Mikhail Ilioukhine and Daijyu Takase.
Nobuhiko Takada: First, I'd like to read a message from DSE President, Sakakibara, regarding Mirko Cro Cop's participation. "We received an offer from Mirko's side around April of this year. Just as was reported by some of the news organizations, he wanted to fight the PRIDE Heavyweight Champion, Emelianenko Fedor. Mirko said he wants to fight in the PRIDE ring, in addition to the K-1 ring. He wants to be both the champion of K-1's standing battle and champion of MMA combat in Pride. To be exact, he wants to prove that he is the strongest man in the world. That is Mirko's ultimate goal. No one has yet to become Champion of both these arenas. It is a great undertaking.
We, in response to Mirko's offer, had 2 requests. First, that he fight under pure PRIDE rules, no special rules. Second, we want him to fight the top fighters in the Heavyweight class. Mirko accepted our requests without hesitation. We made a list of Brazilian and American top fighters. From that list, Mirko choose one of the most dangerous fighters, Heath Herring. We were surprised that he would choose Heath but it reassured us of his desire to put it all on the line and his will be the best. It's impossible to not feel how driven Mirko is given his acceptance of our 2 conditions and given that he choose Heath himself. I would like to express my respect for Mirko as he truly wants to become the strongest in the world and he is willing to give whatever it takes in the toughest ring in the world. Finally, I think the presence of a fighter as strong as Mirko will start a new era in PRIDE. In addition to Mirko's presence, we could to continue to create dream cards for PRIDE fans." This is Mr. Sakakibara's message.
Pride Fighting Championships :
Mirko said that he wants to fight Fedor. When do you want to make this happen?
Fresh cards make the fans the happiest. It makes the event a success. How will this fight with Mirko turn out? I guess if he wins, it will happen sooner rather than later. Obviously, Fedor has to fight Fujita on the same day so it also depends on the outcome of that fight. If they both win, I'm sure that dream card can be realized in the near future.
Who were the other candidate fighters, besides Herring?
Herring is a fighter whose style is no style at all. If he just comes in thinking about defense, he'll get beaten by Mirko. If he can pay attention to his stamina and be careful of Mirko's reach and do the unexpected, Heath has more than enough to win. Just like when Mirko fought Silva, the way you deal with strikes, even if they are the same techniques, between MMA and K-1 is different. I think the key will be getting inside on Mirko. If you worry about punches and low kicks and high kicks too much, you'll put yourself where Mirko wants you. Regardless, I expect a tough fight. I think this will be a good fight for Heath.
Will Mirko begin his MMA training after he finishes his K-1 fight?
It's really up to Mirko. Of course he wants to be both the Champion of K-1 and PRIDE. Not in 5 years but right now. I'm sure he'd rather win this fight and fight Fedor as soon as possible, while he's still in top condition. So, it's not just an issue of his desire. He has to consider his conditioning, his schedule and his feelings at the time but I believe that he's going to be a regular fighter. As far as fighting in August is concerned, it depends on the outcome of this fight quite a bit but I feel that the chances of him participating are very high. But, as I said, it depends on how this fight turns out.