A press conference was held at the Dream Stage Entertainment office in Tokyo to announce the full card for the PRIDE Grand Prix 2005 Lightweight Tournament, to be held at the September 25 th PRIDE BUSHIDO 9. All eyes will be on the First Round battle between BUSHIDO's ace, Takanori Gomi, and the SHOOTO World Champion, Tatsuya Kawajiri, in a battle to decide the top Japanese fighter.
Gomi vs. Kawajiri... If you consider yourself a martial arts fan, then this is the first round match-up that you have been waiting to see. At the press conference, both sides were already engaged in a battle-of-words over who will come out on top.
"This match rivals that of Hidehiko Yoshida and Kiyoshi Tamura," PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada said. "It's going to be a fierce battle from the first round but no matter where you are in the tournament, each fight will be a fierce, super-fight. This will certainly be a battle to decide the world's strongest fighter and I want this to be big enough to blow the August 28 th (Grand Prix) Final Round and (Heavyweight Championship) title match away. I think these are the two men to do it."
"If I'm going to fight, I want to fight the strongest fighter," Kawajiri commented on the match-up. "I think Gomi is the strongest and that's why I accepted."
"The fights will be tough no matter which block you are in," Gomi said. "I've had several fights with foreigners so I thought it would be nice to fight a Japanese fighter in the first round."
Although it seems neither fighter can afford to look past the first round, Kawajiri is focused on the future. "It's a tournament so the ultimate goal is to win in the finals. I'm going to win the first and second round as usual and aim for the New Year's Eve show," Kawajiri said, confident as usual. "I'm after the Championship. People born to become Champions, become Champions. There is no "luck" there. People that should win, will win."
There was a tense feeling between both of these fighters. There's no telling what would have happened if Takada and Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara hadn't been between them. Gomi lightly smiled at Kawajiri's comments and Kawajiri just stared forward, biting his lip.
Furthermore, when asked about Kotani, whom he may have to face in the second round, Kawajiri replied, "I haven't really watched him fight yet so I don't know how he fights. I will watch videos of him and see what kind of fighter he is." Gomi, also asked about Kotani, laughed and replied, "Neither of them [Kawajiri and Kotani] seem to know anything about me. All they need to know is that my fists are hard." Gomi's comments were both a warning that they would regret challenging him and a confident prediction that he would end the match with a KO.
Recently, Gomi has calmed down in his fights but he was originally thought to be so dangerous that he was called a "mad dog." Gomi, who has recently said that he is going back to his roots, seems to be reverting back to his old mad dog self.
Gomi seemed to ignore Kawajiri, preferring to discuss Sakurai, "I think a fight between Sakurai and me would be the fans the happiest. If we don't both win our fights and advance, it will be tough to put that fight together, though." If both of these fighters met up in the final round, it would be a dream match for fans that have been watching them since their SHOOT days.
Kawajiri looks like a killer but there is an aura of danger around Gomi. Answering a request from the cameraman, the fighters faced each other. Kawajiri stared at Gomi but Gomi averted his eyes, keeping his head down. The reason for that became clear in the Q&A session.
All of the fighters are Champions of something. I don't really think of myself as a former Champion because I've been able to do as I pleased in the BUSHIDO ring. I want to go wild, so that everyone wonders what's driving me.
Your 7 win by KO streak was broken in the last fight. What do you think about that?
I've seen his recent fights. I fought 7 foreigners in PRIDE, though. I don't mean that it in a conceited way, I mean that I think I have an advantage over other fighters. The only foreigner that I haven't fought is Yves. I'm going to study Kawajiri and then maybe it will be Kotani's turn. I won't lost to someone that I've beaten before. That's why I'm in a better position than other fighters. That's what I left when I was sparring with Rumina the other day. Once I've beaten a fighter, I won't lose to him. Ralph's not fighting this time so it will all be fighters that have given me their best before, and that's why I'm ahead of the other fighters.
I don't look at my opponent's eyes in the ring either. Even in a street fight, you shouldn't look at their eyes because you'll tense up and it'll be a waste of energy. Staring makes your muscles tense.
Now that the fighters have been confirmed, are you still confident that you will win the Championship?
I don't know if I've caught him or he's caught me but I wanted this fight. This was on short-notice so there's not much time to prepare my spirit. This is a rare chance so I want to win well here and show everyone what I can do.
Gomi said that all you needed to know is that his fists are hard.
We stared at each other for the first time ever when were in the ring during the recent Middleweight Grand Prix. He wouldn't look at me today, though. I thought he was a good guy when our eyes met, though. (laughing) I stare. Stare and stare. I try to stare a hole through them. [Note: Kawajiri always stares at his opponent from the moment they begin their entrance. Watch for this when he's in the ring.]
It's possible that you will fight Mach, the man who taught you to fight, in the final round.
It's strange. He's my teacher so it's feels weird and I don't want Mach to lose, either. I want him to win the Championship but if he wins, I can't. (laughing) It's a problem. Maybe I can get him to wear a mask. (laughing)
Do you think this is a match-up between SHOOTO Champions?