A press conference was held on May 12th to announce four matchups for the Jun 26th PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix 2005 2nd Round. Present at the conference were Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara, PRIDE General Director, Nobuhiko Takada, Kazushi Sakuraba and Kazuhiro Nakamura.
The Middleweight Grand Prix 2nd Round card has finally been announced. The matchups were made based on questionnaires distributed at Osaka Dome during the Opening Round and the results of polls conducts on the PRIDE Japanese website. In addition to those results, the desires of the promoters, past matchups and the possibility of teammates fighting also had to be taken into consideration.
Takada, asked for comment, happily replied, "Is there anything I can say to top this? Each match has is exciting and all of you know more about which will be more exciting than I do. There's nothing more I can add." Asked what he would be watching the most, Takada replied, "Whether Saku and Kazu can fight through their tough matches and stand in the ring in August."
PRIDE has always been about deciding who is the strongest. In addition to PRIDE's middleweight and heavyweight division, the rebirth of BUSHIDO will introduce a light-middleweight division. In the press conference announcing BUSHIDO's reformation, Takada commented that "PRIDE will no longer be the backbone of BUSHIDO and BUSHIDO fighters have something unique. BUSHIDO will be able to compete with the heavy and middleweights and the BUSHIDO fighters are definitely more explosive." The heavyweight division revolves around Fedor, Nogueira and Mirko, while BUSHIDO will become active with the light-middleweight division. The middleweight division will become stuck between these two exciting groups. "This is exactly why the (middleweights) must show us the most exciting fights in the world and prove to use that there are alive," Takada said. Although his words are a little strong, it really reflects Takada's expectations for the middleweight division. After all, the 8 fighters that have fought and remain in the Middleweight Grand Prix have the potential to give incredible performances while showing the best techniques in the world. Among those fighters, Takada has particularly high hopes for Kazu and Saku, "They are both in good condition, and they should be in their best condition by the time of the fight. I hope they will both be able to serve Silva and Arona up on a plate."
Kazuhiro "Kazu" Nakamura will face the PRIDE Middleweight Champion, Wanderlei Silva, in the Grand Prix 2nd Round. Kazu wanted a fight with Silva since the end of the Opening Round. "It's an honor for me to be able to challenge PRIDE's Champion. As a Japanese, as the representative of Japan, I want to be the first Japanese to put a 'Loss' in Silva's record." Kazu will head to Brazil for training after May 15th. There he will train for Silva and return to Japan approximately one week before the fight.
Kazushi "Saku" Sakuraba will fight Abu Dhabi Champion, Ricardo Arona. "I want to have a showy fight, and win. Arona is good standing up and good on the ground. So, I'll just kind of crouch down half-way and fight. The crouch is important. I'm not going anywhere to train. If I went anywhere, it'd be to the convenience store in front of our dojo."
Pride Fighting Championships:
What did you think when you heard that you would face Silva?