Takada Dojo's newest fighter, Kazuhiro Hamanaka, will fight Nino "Elvis" Schembri at the June 8th PRIDE 26: Bad To The Bone in Yokohama Arena. Schembri recently defeated Hamanaka's fellow Takada Dojo member, Kazushi Sakuraba at PRIDE 25. We went to Takada Dojo to speak with Hamanaka and his mentor, Takada Nobuhiko, the newly appointed General Manager of PRIDE.
I'm going to use the skills I've learned from wrestling, which I love, and my strength to win in this PRIDE.
Even among amateur wrestlers, Hamanaka's fighting style is suited well for vale tudo. He's got a solid amateur wrestling record. He'll be competing in the All-Japan meet on May 2nd and that will be his last chance at the Athena Olympics. If he wins there, he'll be eligible for a spot on the Olympic team. I think the most important thing is, as I said, his fighting style is well suited for vale tudo. I hope he'll use the skills he's learned well and not let his amateur wrestling experience be wasted. I think he'll provide inspiration to the fighters that come after him. In his heart, he really wants to show everyone how great amateur wrestling is. He wants kids to be inspired by amateur wrestling. I think there's a lot to be gained from his participation in PRIDE.
What is his fighting style?
In one word, aggressive. Always going forward, always moving. Take the opponent down and pound on them. Even his university instructor said that he has just as much power as the foreign athletes. Many people are wondering if there are any Japanese fighters that can win over foreign fighters in the current PRIDE. I believe that he's got what it takes to do it.
What kind of advice have you given him?
Just win. There were many candidates for his debut, like Ryan (Gracie). There were many names brought up and Nino was eventually decided on. This is a big chance for Hamanaka. It's not just a regular match. He has to win or there's no point in going out there. No matter what, win. That's the most important thing.
Did you choose Nino to be his opponent?
Yes. The first thing I considered was whether their fighting styles would be compatible. Also, will the fans be interested in the fight. I felt the fans would really get into the fight if Nino is his opponent. I believe that Nino will be a good match for him.
Hamanaka, do you have any special feelings towards Nino since he beat Sakuraba?