Brazilian Top Team members Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona held a public training session at a Tokyo gym, in advance of their PRIDE Grand Prix 2nd Round matches. Rodrigo, serving as the team's leader, said that everyone is in great condition and all of the BTT members will be victorious.
The three fighters began jumping rope to warm up as soon as they arrived. Then they moved to shadow boxing, standup sparring and ground sparring. The inside of the gym quickly became humid and even reporters just sitting down were covered in sweat. When their light training finished, the fighters answered the reporters' questions.
Asked about their conditioning, they all replied with unwavering confidence, "It's really great. I'm in 100% shape. I won't have any problems when I go into the fight." (Rogerio) "I'm very good. Not just me though, Rogerio and Arona are perfect, too. We're all going to have great fights, win and prove that BTT is the top team in the world." (Rodrigo) "All 3 of us are in excellent condition and all 3 of us are going to win. We're going to have a celebration party after the event." (Arona)
Arona was the first to be questioned by the reporters. With Kazushi Sakuraba as his opponent, a lot of attention is on his fight.
"I've wanted to have a fight with Sakuraba for a long time. I'm really happy that it will finally happen. It's even better that it will be at the Grand Prix. I want to make this a great fight," Arona commented. "Sakuraba has gained even more experience and he's stronger. I don't think he's in bad condition at all. I've also gained more experience and am in good shape too, so I think it's a good time for us to fight."
He has been waiting for 4 years. When Arona came to PRIDE, Sakuraba was calling himself the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Killer and Arona challenged Sakuraba to protect the honor of his beloved jiu-jitsu. Sakuraba has 6 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw against jiu-jitsu fighters and has never been submitted by a jiu-jitsu fighter. Will his battle with Arona between the final match up between the IQ wrestler and jiu-jitsu?
"Yes," says Arona. "Sakuraba has never lost to the Gracies but I wanted him to fight a jiu-jitsu fighter that is not a Gracie. Sakuraba has fought Rogerio before and now it's my turn! I will prove that my jiu-jitsu is the best."
A popular topic among the reporters was Arona's statement that "I studied the movements of a tiger in a video, and now I'm trying to become a tiger." Arona was virtually speared with questions about that. "A tiger is a great hunter with incredible speed. I watch those videos because I want to bring that strength into martial arts. That's something that I've been doing before though, not something special I've done for this fight," Arona replied.
Arona said that his fascination with tigers began when he was a young boy and saw one at a zoo. He now has 5 tiger tattoos on his body. "It was just one at first but then I wanted to get stronger, and put more tigers on me. The Prince of Abu Dhabi even told me that I have the eyes of a tiger." In response to Sakuraba's comments that Arona has fights stiffly, Arona replied, "That just his character. He always challenges his opponents with jokes. I don't think anything about it." Sakuraba also said that he is a monkey and Arona is a reptile. Arona jokingly replied that, "Sakuraba is definitely a monkey but this is a fight between a monkey and a tiger!"
The tiger connection runs deep on both sides, though. Sakuraba was inspired to become a pro-wrestler after watching the intro to the TV show "Tiger Mask", "Tiger! Tiger! You are a Tiger!" Now the only thing left to do is to prove who is the real tiger of the four-sided jungle.
Fellow BTT member Rogerio will meet Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the eye of the Grand Prix hurricane, but he says it's "no problem" and feels he's capable of neutralizing one of Shogun's biggest weapons, "For a long time, not just for this fight, I've been training in the clinch with Anderson Silva. I think it's impossible for Shogun to try to take me out with knees from the clinch."
Judo king Pawel Nastula challenged Rogerio's brother, Rodrigo, to a no-time limit match. "I always want fights to have no time limits, too. Even if there were no time limit, I wouldn't have any problem with conditioning and stamina," Rodrigo replied. "However, we are PRIDE fighters and we have to obey PRIDE rules. I've haven't been training with a gi for years now and I won't wear one from now on, either," Rodrigo continued, denying Nastula's request.
"This is the first time anyone's ever asked me for these kinds of rules," Rodrigo continued, looking like he's tired of thinking about it. "I don't know what he's trying to get out of it. As a professional fighter, you have to obey the rules of the event. If you are going to fight in PRIDE, you have to fight under PRIDE's rules. As a fighter, he should be more concerned about his opponent than the rules."
"I want one of my teammates to win the Middleweight Grand Prix and I want to prepare for the next Heavyweight Grand Prix," Rodrigo said. "I really want to win this fight and I think the best way to do it would be by using ground techniques against Nastula, a judo player. I think I will be able to prove in this fight that Brazilian Top Team is the strongest and our jiu-jitsu is the best in the world."