Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara spoke about the December 31st PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2005 Event.

As the final event of this year, I'm glad that it went of without a hitch. The PRIDE special challenge match received support and criticism from the fans but it was a place for Kaneko, who has done a lot of work, to challenge himself. Although his hard work did not pay off, I think he was able to show that he had put acting aside and worked hard in order to enter the PRIDE ring.

All of the other fights were main events. Personally, I had very special feelings regarding this card as we approached New Year's Eve. It felt similar to the Takada VS Rickson fight. I was tense because I wanted to watch even more, I wanted to stay there longer. Yoshida's strength is admirable. With both fighters bringing a variety of personal feelings into the ring with them and battling it out, I want to express my greatest respect for Yoshida for winning by submission.

His win made me think that I want Yoshida to continue to be PRIDE's ace in 2006 as well. Yoshida said "I heard his ankle break" so I would also like to thank Ogawa for not giving up and continuing to fight despite his injury. I appreciate that he didn't give up in the fight and did his best. Ogawa himself commented on this and as a fan and the promoter, I also hope that Yoshida will continue to be active in the coming year.

And I have to talk about Gomi VS Mach, which moved me to tears as well. SHOCKWAVE was a mix of lightweights, welterweights, middleweights and heavyweights and this was the best bout among them. This fight was the brightest of the day. Gomi talked a lot about this fight and he backed it up in the ring. His division is the smallest in PRIDE but Gomi proved that when he gets into the ring, his fights lack nothing compared to heavyweight and middleweight matches. The feelings of both fighters in this match were mixed, similar to that of Ogawa VS Yoshida, but Gomi still went out and won. His win was so convincing that it generated the most excitement in the Arena out of all the fights today.

The heavyweights and middleweights can't get too relaxed. The way that the lightweights are fighting now, they, and even Minowa's welterweight division, will probably lose in popularity. Gomi was chosen by the fans to receive the MVP award for 2005 and I think this fight reflected the reasons why. If it had been last year, I think the MVP and Best Bout would have been chosen from the middleweight or heavyweight divisions but this year was different. I can feel that the fans have begun to expect a lot more from BUSHIDO and they are excited about it. If Gomi's magnificent win today gets taken up by the media, as it should, it will be an even bigger wind, and even bigger wave. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Gomi is in the main event in next year's New Year's Eve show.

The 2 welterweight and middleweight title matches were close and I think theirs is a strong feeling that everything hasn't been settled yet. I wanted the winner to be clear. Although the fights were so close that either fighter could have won, if you don't go into the fight planning on winning by a submission or KO, you're not going to take the title. I'm sure the Brazilian Top Team has mixed feelings now but I believe the decisions the judges made were correct. However, I wish one of them had been able to finish the job, as the fans had high expectations.

I believe that Kondo did his best but regarding Kikuta and Takimoto, I want them to start over fresh in the next year. With the performance they gave in that fight, I cannot guarantee a spot in next year's New Year's Eve and I can't promise that they will be back in the PRIDE ring. There are fighters that can give what the fans want and that is the kind of fighter that I want them to be influenced by.

I wanted to see Sakuraba and Minowa go into multiple-rounds but the differences between them, including their physical differences, were clear in this fight. In SHOCKWAVE, men can meet to fight, regardless of weight class, and I was able to see something very special in this fight.




Pride Fighting Championships: Tell us about next year's heavyweight prospects, including how Mirko was feeling before the fight.
Nobuyuki Sakakibara: Mirko had a cold before he left Croatia and a slight fever of 37" C (98.6" F) after coming to Japan. He saw a doctor and despite that, climbed into the ring. As you saw in the fight, Mirko fought with shoes on but the truth is that he hurt his ankle and apparently wore the shoes so his opponent wouldn't notice. Although it's a fact that Mirko climbed into the ring full of injuries, he's not the type of fighter to use that as an excuse and I would like to have a Hunt VS Mirko rematch with both in good shape.
O ur first fight of the New Year will be PRIDE 31 on February 26th at Saitama Super Arena. Although we haven't finalized precise dates yet, we are thinking of starting off on May 5th at the Osaka Dome and having a Heavyweight Grand Prix or Open-Weight Grand Prix in July and September. If it will be open-weight, we will include lightweight and welterweights. The February show will primarily be single matches and be an event to determine who will go to the Grand Prix. I would like to put together some fights with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, the heavyweights that fought in this event and fighters from the middleweight division, such as Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
S pecifically, we will hold the middleweight and heavyweight events on odd months and BUSHIDO events on even months. In BUSHIDO, we plan on having a Lightweight or Welterweight Grand Prix.
Pride: Do you know the condition of Ogawa's injury?
Sakakibara: I don't know details because he went to the hospital immediately after the fight.
Pride: Did you and Ogawa speak to each other?
Sakakibara: We spoke a few words before the fight and he seemed relaxed. I haven't spoken to him since the fight ended.