A press conference was held on March 30th in a Tokyo Hotel to announce the participation of Hidehiko Yoshida and Tsuyoshi Kosaka in the May 5th PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix 2006, to be held at the Osaka Dome. Both fighters were present at the conference and both fighters promised to win the tournament.
In the first press conference for the Open Weight Grand Prix, the first two of 16 fighters were announced: Hidehiko Yoshida and Kosaka Tsuyoshi.
Opening the press conference, PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada introduced Yoshida and Kosaka, "I apologize for keeping you waiting. There is only a little more than a month left from the time of this press conference until the Open Weight Grand Prix. The first of 16 of the world's top fighters have been decided." Takada continued, naming Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva, Mark Hunt and Josh Barnett as planned participants in the Grand Prix.
"Regarding Kosaka, he had surprising words for us following his surprising performance, and his surprising win, in PRIDE 31. Despite the pressure of having his retirement on the line, he was still able to win while working towards a spot in the Open Weight Grand Prix. I think he gained fans in that fight. Your fight record alone is not enough to put your in the ring. A lot of attention is paid to your current position. He didn't rely on his past record and he produced results when they were needed. He's not fighting in this Grand Prix just as a commemorative occasion. He has taken one step away from retirement and joined these 16 fighters."
Takada continued speaking heatedly about Kosaka's actions and motivations and cheered him on, "I hope that the compilation of TK's life as a martial artist will not end in May, but continue into July and September."
Regarding Yoshida, Takada gave three connections that Yoshida has to the Grand Prix tournaments. "The first is his fight against Kiyoshi Tamura in the First Round of the first Middleweight Grand Prix. Second, I cannot forget the moment when he asked for Silva. Finally, he accepted immediately when Silva asked for him at last year's Middleweight Grand Prix."
"He's in a position that he could have taken his time but he was the first to raise his hand for this event," Takada continued. "In BUSHIDO, we have Takanori Gomi, who will soon be a super star. In PRIDE, we have Hidehiko Yoshida, recognized as a world-class athlete, a top-fighter representing Japan and capable of taking on the world."
Takada has a dream for these two top Japanese fighters, "After May and July, last year's Middleweight Grand Prix ended with 4 foreigners fighting for the Championship. This year, I hope that TK and Yoshida will remain until the Final Round and give us a Japanese Champion."
Kosaka also had heartfelt words, "First, I would like to say that it's truly an honor to be able to fight in the Grand Prix. For me, the Grand Prix began in February, so there will be no change for me mentally or in my regular life, and I can continue my training."
"I said that I would make this the compilation of my life as a martial artist but to me, life is martial arts and I think the Grand Prix will be part of the compilation of my life. As an end to the martial arts that I have done for 10 years, I don't want to waste even a second. I will always move forward when I fight in the Grand Prix," Kosaka added, explaining his firm resolve.
Apparently inspired by Takada and Kosaka, Yoshida was unusually vocal and declared that he would win the Grand Prix. "I competed in the Open Weight Division when I was active in judo. I won't have to lose weight this time so I want to win this event and take on the world. Since I will be in the same event with Kosaka, I hope that we will both be able to do our best, despite being old men (laughing)," Yoshida smiled and said, also causing Kosaka to smile for the first time in the press conference.
Both of these fighters spent their youths doing judo, have lived through the same times together, have sweat and bled in order to take on the world together as friends. Although Kosaka has declared that he will retire at this Grand Prix, this final stage will be the first stage for both men to stand together. The two fighters are bound by a strong friendship but will they be able to meet up in the Final Round? Or will one, or both, run out of steam mid-way?