A press conference was held on March 31 to announce two matches for the upcoming PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix 2005 Opening Round, to be held in Osaka Dome on April 23rd.

With the announcement of Yoon Dong Sik's participation, there's only one fight left open in the Middleweight Grand Prix. "We just have to wait for the results of the April 3rd BUSHIDO'S four-man tournament," commented CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara. "Possible candidates are Ryan Gracie, Ricardo Arona and a FILA-recommended wrestler. I plan on announcing the full card around April 5th, after BUSHIDO."

Kiyoshi Tamura's participation was anticipated but appears to now be impossible. "I met with him 10 days ago and he wanted to fight if he is not injured. The final announcement will be on the 5th but Tamura still has 2 wires inserted into his broken thumb so I don't think he will be able to participate in the Grand Prix."

The two announced cards were Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Dan Henderson versus Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.




PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada explained what makes these fights special. "Henderson lost a couple of years ago to Rogerio's brother, Rodrigo. Since then, he always asked us to let him fight the Nogueira brothers or someone from Brazilian Top Team. Since this is the opportunity to decide the strongest middleweight fighter, both sides were of the same thought and this match was put together.

Shogun's brother, Ninja, lost to Rampage in PRIDE 29, and Shogun climbed into the ring asking Jackson to fight him. Rampage seemed very depressed about that fight, though, and it was then that Shogun approached him for the fight. From Rampage's point of view, he probably just wanted to move on after beating Shogun. Also, it must be difficult for (Wanderlei) Silva. Silva and Rampage are the top-two fighters and have both supported PRIDE's Middleweight Division. Shogun, who is said to have more potential than Silva himself, could be put into a position where he and his teammate Silva may have to face each other. This card will make a lot of people very nervous."