A press conference was held at the Tokyo Dream Stage Entertainment office on February 6th to announce 4 additional fights for the PRIDE 31 card, to be held on February 26th at Saitama Super Arena. Present at the press conference was Kazuhiro Nakamura, who will fight Josh Barnett in an Open Weight class match. Nakamura said of his Open Weight fight, "I don't expect to be able to leave the ring in perfect condition.

The 4 fights announced by PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada are as follows:

Josh Barnett (America/New Japan Pro-Wrestling)
Kazuhiro Nakamura (Japan/Yoshida Dojo)

John Olav Einemo (Norway)
Fabricio Werdum (Brazil/Team Cro Cop)

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (America/God's Street Soldier)
Yoon Dong Sik (South Korea/Takada Dojo)

Pedro Rizzo (Brazil/Ruas Vale Tudo)
Roman Zentsov (Russia/Red Devil)

After announcing the card, Takada declared that "the 8 fights announced so far will all be considered as evaluation matches" for the upcoming PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix 2006, the Opening Round of which will be held on May 5th at the Osaka Dome.

"The prelims for the Open Weight Grand Prix have already begun," Takada continued. "Kazu Nakamura, who normally fights at 100kg, will face off against Josh Barnett, a 130kg fighter, in an Open Weight match. Josh has an abundance of experience and this will be a very difficult match for Kazu, including the weight difference. However, that will give us and the fans more reason to hope that the name Kazuhiro Nakamura" will be on the lineup for the Opening Round in May."

Regarding Yoon Dong Sik, Takada gave him words of support, "Quinton will be an extremely difficult opponent for him this time but in his last fight against Takimoto, Yoon showed us good ground work and he also showed us that he can fight with his heart when standing. He showed a fight where if he gets hit, he hits back and keeps moving forward. I hope he will find some way to gain a win over Rampage, who is one of the top Middleweight fighters, and put himself in the Open Weight Grand Prix, along with Kazu."

"Winning the Middleweight Championship belt is my goal for this year but I thought that if there is going to be an Open Weight Grand Prix and I would have a chance to fight a great fighter like Josh Barnett, who took Mirko to a decision, then I want to challenge myself," Nakamura explained his reasoning for accepting the fight.

Nakamura normally weighs between 98kg and 100kg now. According to Nakamura, he plans on fighting at his natural weight, rather than trying to gain weight for his fight with Barnett. Nakamura said he has fought opponents as big as 140~150kg in Open Weight class matches in his days as a judo competitor. He did, however, say that he realizes judo and mixed martial arts are two different sports.

"I just imagine Josh as a strong fighter. I don't want to fight a strategic match. I want to show everyone a fight with emotion," Nakamura said that feelings would be more important than technique to win his Open Weight battle. Nakamura won't train overseas for this fight as he has done for recent fights but "if I'm chosen to fight in the Open Weight Grand Prix, I want to train overseas."

"I'm more worried about how I will feel during the match than anything else. I think this is a fight with myself, rather than a fight with my opponent. I don't really expect to be able to leave the ring in perfect condition. It will depend on how I am able to confront my feelings," Nakamura said of his upcoming match, his expression revealing the effect that the words "Open Weight" have on fighters. Will Kazuhiro Nakamura be able to overcome his tremendous fear and advance to the May 5th PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix Opening Round? His fate will be decided on February 26th at Saitama Super Arena.



Pride Fighting Championships: When did you receive the fight offer?
Kazuhiro Nakamura: About 5 days ago. I was already thinking of fighting in February.
Pride: Have you had any connection with the A-SQUARE gym before this? (A-SQUARE is Tsuyoshi Kosaka's gym. Kosaka and Josh were training partners in the US.)
Nakamura: I trained with them once about 3 years ago. That was right around the time that I began mixed martial arts and I thought that they were really strong. I never thought I would have to fight with one of them. They really beat me up, like I was a kid.
Pride: You'll be in the same event as your striking instructor, Pedro Rizzo.
Nakamura: We haven't really contacted each other. I don't think we'll be able to train together since Rizzo is also fighting.
Pride: You seem a little meek today.
Nakamura: Hmm. This is most nervous I have ever been for a fight. I really don't know how this fight will turn out. That's a little terrifying
Pride: You said earlier that you don't expect to be able to leave the ring in perfect condition.
Nakamura: Yes" plan on putting everything on the line for this. That's the feeling I will bring into my fight.
Pride: Is there anyone that would you like to fight in the Open Weight Grand Prix?
Nakamura: No, I haven't thought that far ahead. All I can think of is Josh right now.
Pride: Is there anything in particular that you want to work on for this fight?
Nakamura: Well, I have my experience up till this point and I think it will be best if I can fight with a good overall balance.
Pride: How do you see yourself winning?
Nakamura: I just want to do my best.
Pride: Yesterday, your training partner Ryo Chonan fought in DEEP and became the DEEP Middleweight Champion. Does that encourage you?
Nakamura: " onestly, even though I watched that fight, I can't think of anything but myself right now.
Pride: You said that you wanted to fight your own fight. Does that mean that you want to fight without losing heart or that you want to improve on the mistakes that you've made in previous fights?
Nakamura: Both. The New Year's Eve fight didn't end well and I want to make up for that mistake. I also feel that as long as I don't lose heart, it won't be a loss for me, no matter what happens.