The official signing ceremony for the PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix and PRIDE Middleweight title matches was held in a Tokyo hotel on December 29th. Present at the ceremony were Murilo Bustamante and Dan Henderson, who will fight to determine the first PRIDE Welterweight Champion, and PRIDE Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva and Ricardo Arona, who will fight in a rematch after Arona's victory over Silva in August. Also present were Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara and Pride General Director Nobuhiko Takada.

The official signing ceremony for the PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix and PRIDE Middleweight title matches was held today, a few days following the signing ceremony for the PRIDE Lightweight Grand Prix title match. Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara and Pride General Director arrived at the press conference ahead of the fighters. "It feels like the real thing when you see the fighters come in like this," Sakakibara said. "It's tense."

As with the PRIDE Lightweight Grand Prix Championship fight, this event will also crown the first PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix Champion. Sakakibara continued, speaking about his hopes for the top fighters, Bustamante and Henderson, "These two fighters have carried the mixed martial arts world for a long time. With their speed and technique, I expect a wonderful fight. For us, we will be incredibly proud of the Champion, no matter who wins."

It's unfortunate that there are no Japanese fighting for this title, Takada said, but "the world's top fighters beat the Japanese fighters and that's why they are sitting here today. There's no reason for Japanese fighters to be here. No matter who wins and becomes the Champion on New Year's Eve, he will no doubt give a vivid image of strength. I believe that these two will show the fans their skill and their fighting spirit. I want them to have a Welterweight Championship match that shows everyone what it means to be the first Champion."

Silva and Arona will fight in a rematch after their battle in the August Middleweight Grand Prix Semi-Final Round. Although it's a title bout, this is a revenge match for the Middleweight Champion Silva and Arona, the challenger, has become the challenged. "Arona has shown us his strength in his fight with Sakuraba and the recent fight with Silva. Arona beat the Champion, who is here today, and earned the right for a title match. Was that Arona's true strength? Or was Silva, Mr. Pride, the man who was supported this event for so long, just not himself that day? Will the results be the same this time? This fight will probably become a furious battle. I expect a fight of all fights, fitting of a title match," Takada continued.

"This fight is the result of their Middleweight Grand Prix Semi-Final Round match and if he wins this fight, he will probably be recognized as the strongest PRIDE Champion ever. Silva is on the ledge. I hope that he will show the toughness that has allowed him to carry the PRIDE Middleweight division this far," Sakakibara commented, explaining both fighters" positions and giving the two fighters on the peak of the Middleweight division encouragement. After the agreements were signed and the four fighters heard Sakakibara and Takada's comments, the fighters spoke about their fights and answered questions from reporters.

"It's been my dream for many years to become the PRIDE Champion. This is a chance that I have waited for a long time. I've trained hard this year to become the Champion. I want to make everyone happy and give them a great fight." (Bustamante)

"It's a real honor and a privilege to fight in this title match. This fight will be exciting and I think the fans will be happy." (Henderson)

"I'm glad that I received this chance. It was my dream to become the PRIDE Champion. I will give my best in my fight and after I win, I want to wear the belt. I want to give everyone a great fight." (Arona)

"I think all of the fights in this PRIDE will be exciting. PRIDE, as an event, will continue to grow. For me, this fight is a crucial fight, so I have trained very hard. I want to fight a good fight for the fans, for PRIDE and for my team, and I want to prove that I want the Champion." (Silva)



Pride Fighting Championships: What do you think of your opponent?
Murilo Bustamante: He's a complete fighter and he's strong on the ground or standing. I think it will be a tough fight but I will do my best.
Dan Henderson: I've prepared and worked on a strategy for this fight. I can fight from the bottom or the top on the ground, and strike while standing, of course. I want to have an all-round fight that is exciting and fitting for the Grand Prix Final Round. However, like Bustamante said, it will be a tough fight.
Ricardo Arona: Wanderlei is the Champion and I have nothing to say. Everyone knows his strength and his record. I don't want to waste my chance at this title match.
Wanderlei Silva: Arona is a strong fighter. This is a revenge match for me and I will do my best so I don't let those around me down.
Pride: Isn't it difficult to fight the same opponent again after such a short time?
Arona: Everyone fighting in PRIDE is tough. It doesn't matter if my opponent is the same. I've trained the same way as before but this time, I trained harder and longer.
Silva: I'm looking forward to this fight and I think we will have a great fight. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to fight my way last time, and I want to show my potential this time and win.
F ollowing the questions and answers, the four fighters stood together for photos. Bustamante and Henderson left, shaking hands and promising a good fight, while Silva and Arona received requests from cameramen for a stare-down. Both fighters were quiet but obviously ready to fight on New Year's Eve.