A press conference was held on December 21 st in a Tokyo Hotel to announce 3 matches on the upcoming December 31 st PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2005 event, to be held at Saitama Super Arena. Among them was the Japanese VS Japanese match-up of Sakuraba and Minowa!
"DSE has tried for 3 year to make Sakuraba VS Tamura a reality. We negotiated until the middle of December but this opportunity was lost, too. It's unfortunate," PRIDE General Director Takada Nobuhiko explained the reason for the sudden match-up of Sakuraba and Minowa.
"We changed our switches over immediately and began working on a new opponent. The New Year's Eve event this year has a strong image of Japanese VS Japanese and of fighting for the top positions, so we wanted to respond to those fans that want to see Sakuraba against a Japanese fighter. And when we thought about it, we realized that there is another "man in red pants" Minowa's fight with another fighter of similar build wasn't almost finalized but he agreed to our sudden offer."
According to a story told by Takada, there was a bit of fat in the making of this card as it was actually Saku that requested Minowa, "Saku has always said that he doesn't want to fight another Japanese and I asked him 2 or 3 years ago, just to be sure if he really and truly doesn't want to fight a Japanese. Saku said that he would fight if it were against Tamura because he could punch Tamura. And there was another name, Minowa. When I asked him why, Saku said that he's very professional and has interesting fights. I think Saku was really impressed."
"There may be more Japanese match-ups for Tamura," Takada continued. "But, there won't be for Sakuraba." Since the chances of a fight with Tamura are basically zero now, this fight with Minowa may be Sakuraba's only Japanese VS Japanese match. "The mysterious Minowa versus the fantastic Sakuraba. Who wouldn't enjoy that? Now that Tamura VS Sakuraba is a thing of the past, we can provide something even more exciting."
Minowa must be the most excited about this turn of events. Deeply moved, Minowa said, "I would like to say thank you to the fans and the officials that put this great match together."
"Sakuraba has been talking about 'red pants' for a long time and honestly, I hoped that he might have been talking about me, too... Of course, I knew it was Tamura but I was really hopeful for this fight. My personal theme for this match is that it's the last match of my twenties and, really, I can't find any word for this other than "perfect'. I don't know what to say. I think this is the greatest match making. ... I'm thankful and happy!!"
Although Sakuraba was occasionally laughing when Minowa commented that he was so happy, he became excited when it was his own turn to comment. "I think Minowa is the best, as a professional fighter. We will both do our best to make this a great fight." It's a rare thing for Sakuraba to speak so highly of his opponents.
"There were several fighters mentioned but I thought a fight with Minowa would be the best for the fans," Sakuraba said of his reason for choosing Minowa. "I don't care what the fight order is. The first fight is fine. The first fight is an important position because it sets the tone for the fans and if it's the first fight, the I want to fulfill the role of the 1 st fight and win the fans' hearts."
Minowa agreed, "I will leave the match order up to PRIDE. Our fight will be the MVP fight of the night, though." Apparently, Minowa thought that everything was perfect the moment he received the offer. "I very happy right now. I already feel like I'm in heaven. It will super heaven when I meet Sakuraba in the ring. In the end, I want to go to ultra heaven."
There will apparently be no weight restrictions for this fight. "My weight changes daily so I won't know what I weigh until the day of the fight," Minowa said. "I'm the same way," Sakuraba agreed.
"This fight means a lot to both of these fighters. Of course they want to win but they are also going to raise each other's values in the ring. I'm expecting a professional fight," Takada said.
There's no guarantee that Sakuraba will ever face another Japanese fighter, and a fight with Minowa is certain to be interesting. This will be a special match, with a flavor completely different than that of Ogawa and Yoshida.
Pride General Director Nobuhiko Takada's Comments
All of the other candidates for Sakuraba were foreigners. There was a heavyweight but most were middleweights. There were fighters that he has fought before.
I think there is something we can expect from Saku's choice of Minowa, and it's not just about winning or losing. We haven't seem (Saku as) the fantasista recently, so I think this will be fight that's easy to watch, and easy to understand, because they both have share a theme. The fans will also go to ultra heaven.
Silva VS Thompson will be a match-up of monsters, each standing taller than 2 meters. This card is different than the others it will be a fun fight to watch for people that don't normally watch PRIDE.
Although it's his younger brother, Nastula's fight with Alexander will likely become a fight to see whether he has the right to challenge Fedor. This is an important fight, live or die for Nastula.
Ikuhisa Minowa's Comments
My conditioning is good and I've been concentrated. I want to overwork myself once more before New Year's Eve and then manage my condition carefully from there.
I always thought that I would fight Sakuraba eventually. I've trained with him many times but not recently. I was going to Takada Dojo until the beginning of November.
There will be fans that see this as a U-INTER VS Pancrase match. I also feel that way but I think this is a match between one pro-wrestler and another.
Kazushi Sakuraba's Comments
We haven't trained with each other or seen each other recently so, in that sense, I think that Minowa is a good match and we will have a great fight. Minowa gives a professional show from start to finish and he can nail down the audience. That's why I picked him.
I've seen him at the events and he's exciting from the moment he makes his entrance. I wanted to get in the ring and do that cheer at the end with him.
I'd like to do something in my entrance but I haven't thought about it at all. If I can think of something in time, I'll do it.
Minowa is the best opponent among the Japanese fighters. I will be happy if people say that we had a good fight? Will I move around? No, I'll run out of stamina. (laughing)
I don't think anything (about the Tamura fight not being realized). It's always like that. If he was going to say no though, I wish he had said it earlier. I need time to do things, too.
I caught a cold after I came back to Japan but I trained well in Brazil , and I will use that in the fight.