On September 1 st , DSE held a press conference at its Tokyo headquarters to announce the full card for the upcoming PRIDE Grand Prix 2005 Lightweight Tournament, to be held at the September 25 th PRIDE Bushido 9. Present at the conference, were Gomi, Kawajiri, Mach and Kotani, who spoke about the 1 st PRIDE Championship for their weight class.
"Although I have no doubt that the after-effects of the PRIDE Grand Prix Final Round still remain in the press and in us, the event staff, there will be no breaks," Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara stated. "There is nothing but forward-movement towards a large goal in today's announcement. We are going to have the 1 st Lightweight Grand Prix. I want all of the fighters in this Grand Prix to challenge themselves to do their best, to not give anything up to the Heavyweight and Middleweight Grand Prix. I also want the fans and the staff to do their best so that fans will want to come out and watch these lightweights and welterweights."
As Sakakibara said, the effects of the August 28 th PRIDE Grand Prix 2005 Final Round, deciding both the Middleweight Grand Prix Champion and the Heavyweight Championship, still remain, the announcement of this outstanding tournament was intended to blow them. The welterweight tournament was already expected to be a cutthroat battle and now the competition will only get fiercer with the addition of the lightweight fighters.
"Things still haven't cooled down after the Heavyweight Championship title match and the Middleweight Grand Prix," Pride General Director Nobuhiko Takada continued. "I've been in this business for a long time but I don't remember anything like this. I had goose bumps from beginning to end as I watched toughest of the toughest, battling to reach the peak. There's no time to spare thinking about that, though. There is a new battle beginning, with a force stronger than the previous day's events, consisting of 8 men + 8 men + 2 men + 2 men. If you look at the competitors, you will see that none of them are inferior and they have the potential to exceed the recent battles."
Shigeru Saeki, BUSHIDO's Public Relations officer, wasn't able to contain his excitement and confidence either, "I'm always joking but I'm very nervous today. The strongest man in ZST, Naoyuki Kotani, and the strongest man in SHOOTO, Tatsuya Kawajiri. Although his weight-class is different, Hayato "Mach" Sakurai was also one the strongest in SHOOTO. The man currently said to be the toughest in the world, Takanori Gomi, and the strongest man in Europe, Joachim Hansen. The strongest guys in American, Yves Edwards and Jens Pulver. I can't find anything to complain about in this card. I'm confident that this will be the place that will decide who is truly the strongest in the world. There are other events that claim to decide who is the strongest but if you take a look at this lineup, you will see that this truly is the place where the strongest will be decided."
There is no exaggeration in Saeki's statement. This card and these fighters are just that good. The night of September 25 th will be revolutionary, rewriting martial arts history.
First is Gomi vs. Kawajiri, a match to decide who is the top Japanese fighter. Then, Yves vs. Hansen to decide the top foreign fighter. The long awaited ZST ace, Kotani, will make his BUSHIDO debut against Azeredo. Dropping down a weight class and putting his return on the line, Mach will take on Pulver. Even the reserve match promises to be thrilling will Mishima Dokonjyonosuke taking on Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett.
"Ummm, there are a lot of things that I want to say but I will just say now that I am aiming to win the first, second and third rounds. That's all. There is nothing else but that. I don't know what else I can say," Sakurai commented.
"I believe that I am representing ZST and RINGS, not myself as an individual," newcomer Kotani said, declaring his loyalties. "I want to give a hard fight that leaves an impact."
"Everyone is an incredible fighter and all are capable of winning. This is a tournament so I think that luck, in addition to skill, will be a big factor. For that reason, I'm not playing any lotteries and I hope I will be able to save up some luck," Kawajiri commented, relaxed as usual.
"I want to make this a wonderful event that surpasses the previous one at Ariake," Gomi continued on to predict his victory, ending the conference as the BUSHIDO ace should. "I will absolutely win."
It's finally here. This tournament, full of aggressive fighters that settle for nothing less than submission and KO victories, have gathered together and most likely, no one will make it to the last round unscathed. There's no doubt that this will unfold in to the greatest battle in history.