A press conference was held on October 5th at the Dream Stage Entertainment office in Tokyo, announcing additional matches for the upcoming October 23rd PRIDE 30, to be held at Saitama Super Arena. Present at the conference were PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada, Kazushi Sakuraba and Henry "Sentoryu" Miller. Sakuraba, who will face Ken Shamrock, was his usual light-hearted self but did declare that he is intent on winning.
There's nothing unusual about holding press conferences at the DSE office but the office was overflowing with reporters on this day. As he looked at the spectacle with an expression of surprise, PRIDE's General Director, Nobuhiko Takada, said, "This must be Sakuraba's power."
"PRIDE will become 8 years old this October," Takada continued. "As we enter the 9th year, I feel some sense of connection with the sub-title [in Japan] of "Starting Over" this October. Sakuraba's match, pivotal for the event, in addition to Mirko's, has also been decided, and is also appropriate for the Starting Over sub-title."
Takada continued however, "The phrase Starting Over sounds very pretty but I have a heavy, unpleasant feeling that a single misstep can land you at the gates of hell. That's how important these fights are. Makoto Takimoto or Yoon Dong Sik may also find that they don't have a future, depending on how they win or lose." Takada emphasized that that winning and losing here will determine which path they take down an important forked road. Putting Sakuraba against a former top heavyweight fighter like Shamrock also seems like throwing a lamb to the lions.
Whether he was feeling the pressure or not, Sakuraba was his usual self, only commenting, "I'll do my best. Please support me." Sakuraba's replies to reporter questions were sparse, such as "I don't know", "I don't have any particular impression of Shamrock" and "I forgot." In the end Sakuraba said, "Chute Boxe beat me up too much and I've lost all my memory of the past."
Finally, Sakuraba had a serious comment; "I'm getting myself in tune for the fight. [Shamrock] looks strong. He's been active for a long time and I've always wanted to fight him once, so I'm looking forward to this."
This fight is contracted at middleweight and Shamrock will have to come down from heavyweight but Takada spoke when this topic was brought up. "Saku may be the one losing weight this time. This may be the first time he has to struggle to cut weight. Saku is in amazing condition right now." Hearing this, Saku replied, "I'm plump. (laughing) I ate too much Churrascaria [a Brazilian BBQ]." Sakura has apparently been making progress in bulking up, and currently weighs around 92~93kg.
Even so, the most common phrase out of Sakuraba's mouth was "I want to win." That short comment lets us know how thirsty, how hungry Sakuraba is for a win.
"I think this is a fight that I have to do my absolute best in. I lost my last fight so I definitely want to win. I won't know how effective my training will be until I actually fight. I don't have a theme for my fights. I just want to win. I want to win, and if it's a good fight on top of that, great. That's always my goal. I want to have fun and I'm looking forward to this fight."
We can expect the birth of a new Sakuraba style. "I don't know the names but they taught me a lot of muay thai and jiu-jitsu techniques. I don't think I will completely change but I'd like to use the new techniques I've learned, in addition to my old ones," Sakuraba said about this Chute Boxe training.
"Although we were thinking about America, there was also a strong request from Shamrock to fight either Sakuraba or Yoshida," Takada explained. "Both of these helped bring MMA where it is now; he in the UFC and Sakuraba in PRIDE. Maybe that's why they are pulled toward each other. This match can also be seen as a match between the big names of the UFC and PRIDE."
Even so, no one wants to see a fight where the fighters are only there because of their old images. The fans really want to see a match with both fighters fighting with all they have, life and death on the line.
Judgment will be passed on Sakuraba on October 23rd. Will he be able to start over? Or, will he just sink?
Ken Shamrock's Comments
I'm really looking forward to fighting Sakuraba. He's a very technical fighter and has a long record in mixed martial arts. I'm very excited to be able to fight that kind of fighter. This fight is very important for me and there's no doubt that this will be a great match for the mixed martial arts fans, too. I'm also very happy that I will be able to fight once again in the PRIDE ring.