A press conference for the February 26th PRIDE 31 was held on January 19th at the Dream Stage Entertainment office in Tokyo. At the conference were DSE CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara, PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada and Tsuyoshi Kosaka, who will fight in PRIDE 31.
Tsuyoshi Kosaka, a Japanese fighter intent on fighting in the Open Weight Grand Prix, will take on Brazilian Top Team coach Mario Sperry in PRIDE 31. PRIDE 31 is intended to serve as a testing ground for the Open Weight Grand Prix, which will begin in May of this year.
"For this fight, I will be betting everything that I've learned in martial arts in my life in order to enter the Grand Prix in May. My fight with Mario doesn't have anything directly to do with the Grand Prix but I feel like its part of the Grand Prix. No matter what happens, I have to win. I'll be putting everything on the line when I fight. I feel that this fight will connect me to the Grand Prix. I have made up my mind about some things and although I still can't put them into words well, I want to go after it," Kosaka commented. As part of Kosaka's resolve to fight Sperry, he returned his Pancrase Super Heavyweight Champion title to Pancrase.
What made Kosaka go that far? According to Kosaka, it was because of his losses to Fedor Emelianenko in BUSHIDO and Mike Kyle in Pancrase.
"At some point those fights, I lost sight of my own fighting style. That's very important for me and if I don't have that, then there's no Kosaka. My fighting style is to always attack and always move forward. I always go forward, no matter how big or how strong my opponent is. I thought that the only place for me to find that again is the Grand Prix."
"I was ware of him when he won in Abu Dhabi and even before that when he was doing jujitsu," Kosaka said of his opponent, Sperry. "He's a pioneer of mixed martial arts in Brazil and much of the techniques that the currently active Nogueira and Arona use were learned from him. He's their root, a big root. That's why a win over him is so valuable."
Kosaka has trained with the best of the best in Japanese mixed martial arts, including Hidehiko Yoshida. "I can keep doing my best because those guys are here, and I can change. They are important friends to me." Kosaka continued discussing his training partners, without naming anyone specific, saying that he is conducting special training and visiting other gyms "in order to train to win and to prepare mentally."
"It's not just about winning and losing," Sakakibara added. "If he can get support from the fans, saying they want to see him in the Grand Prix because of the way that he won or lost, then this fight can considered as a test for May. I think both Kosaka and Mario should be aware of that when they are fighting." For Kosaka, the fight to make it to the Open Weight Grand Prix, and to return to his old self, has already begun.
It was also announced that Mark Hunt would be the opponent for Yousuke Nishijima, whose PRIDE debut was announced at a recent press conference. Nishijima originally planned to make his PRIDE debut under his ring name of Youkaizan but decided to use his real name of Yousuke Nishijima. Nobuhiko Takada explained, "As was reported in some newspapers, we received a complaint regarding the name Youkaizan, so he decided to change and fight under his real name. Although we received suggestions for his ring name from more than 300 fans, I feel great regret and want to apologize to all the fans that gave us suggestions. Yousuke Nishijima left for training in America and he said that he will remember this in his fight with Hunt and send a message to the fans."
Additionally, the participation of John Olav Einemo was officially announced. Hardcore fans have been waiting for the "jujitsu magician of the north" to make his PRIDE debut. There is no doubt that this world-class Heavyweight grappler, who even beat the current Abu Dhabi Champion, Roger Gracie, will have a big impact on the current Heavyweight Division lineup and this year's Open Weight Grand Prix.
●Post-Press Conference Comments from Tsuyoshi Kosaka
I haven't decided exactly what kind of special training I will do yet. The most important thing for this fight is to fight as myself. There are things that I have to do to get there and I will train for that. I will go to train at other gyms.
What didn't I fight like myself? If I knew, it would be easy. (laughing) When I made my debut, I was hungry and when I got into the ring, I wanted to win. I think you have to be that way in martial arts. In the ring, you can win or lose but in a real fight, losing equals death. You have to feel that way when you fight, and the fight is that important. I will probably be even more excited in this fight than I was when I fought in the UFC.