A 3-part press conference was held on June 8th and the Tokyo Prince Hotel and in the 2nd part, the for the PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix 2006 Second Round event, to be held on July 1st at Saitama Super Arena, was announced. Hidehiko Yoshida and Kazuyuki Fujita were also present at the conference and spoke about their upcoming matches.
PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada's announcement of the Open Weight Grand Prix Second Round matches between Hidehiko Yoshida and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, and Kazuyuki Fujita and Wanderlei Silva, was met with the cheers from approximately 600 gathered fans. "I can feel the heat," Takada responded surprised. "I've got goose bumps." Yoshida smiled but Fujita remained expressionless as always.
The announcement of matchups between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum, and Josh Barnett and Mark Hunt, were met with the same loud cheers. This was clearly the card that the fans have been waiting for.
"I'm confident that on July 1st, we will once again see an intense, and stoic, PRIDE come to life," Takada said proudly of the Grand Prix card.
DSE previously distributed questionnaires to fans and conducted online polls to see which cards the fans wanted to see most. The results were Yoshida VS Mirko in 1st place and by only a small difference, Fujita VS Silva in 2nd place. According to Takada, approximately 70~80% of the returned questionnaires voted for these two matches. Fujita VS Hunt was at 3rd place, Nogueira VS Werdum at 4th place and Barnett VS Hunt at 5th place, showing that the fans' desires were indeed reflected in this event's matchmaking.
Kazuyuki Fujita returned from his training in America for this press conference and said that he would return immediately after it finished. "It feels special every time I climb into the ring but this time I will fight with a truly special feeling. Please support me," Fujita greeted the fans. Yoshida then said strongly, "Good afternoon. My opponent, Mirko, is an extremely strong fighter. Since we were 1st place in the questionnaire, I want to give a fight that will live up to the expectations of the fans. And, I want to make PRIDE even more exciting."
"I've been watching him for some time and he's a complete fighter," Fujita said of Wanderlei Silva. "I think this will be a fight where neither of us back down, so I believe this with be a simple fight with a KO ending. We will pit our emotions against each other." Continuing, Yoshida gave his impression of Mirko Filipovic, "He's a great human and I will also have to be careful because he can finish the fight with a single strike. I want to have a rough fight. I feel strongly that he won't knock me down with a single strike, so I hope the fans will have a lot of fun when they watch out fight."
Messages from Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Filipovic, who were unable to attend the conference, were then read.
● Wanderlei Silva
To the Japanese fans, as I'm always saying, I will fight anyone. I will fight hard against Fujita in the fight, as I always to, to make the fans excited. I think Fujita is the strongest fighter among all the Japanese fighters. He's powerful and more than anything, he has a strong heart. However, I will absolutely win. I have promised my teammates a victory. And, I want to fight and win for the fans that have always supported me.
● Mirko Filipovic
I do not understand why FUJI TV has made this decision. However, as fighters, there is only one thing that we can do. We can have ultimate battles, giving the greatest MMA fights in the world, in both mind and body, that can't be seen in any other ring in the world. From there, drama will be born, moving the people that watch it and that dram will lead to the next event. That kind of continuing drama is what PRIDE is all about.
It's a face that we, the fighters, put our own pride on the line and appear in these unscripted dramas.
I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that the people that decided to no longer broadcast these wonderful and extreme continuing dramas will regret their decision later. Now, with our own hands, we will create even greater dramas than before. That's all.
Today, my opponent for the Second Round, Mr. Hidehiko Yoshida, was announced. I believe that he is the human most worthy of respect from all the current PRIDE fighters. It is truly an honor for me to be able to fight a man who is such as great human as Yoshida is.
Of course, Croatia and Japan will meet in Germany on June 18th to decide who will advance in the World Cup. I can't help but think that it is fate that he and I will fight two weeks later. Let's both carry out national flags and give one more "Japan VS Croatia" battle that our countries can be proud of. One of us will be paying the other back for the World Cup and I'm really looking forward to July 1st.
Looking at the comments, all four fighters are extremely motivated. The fighters seem to be looking forward to the fights as much as the fans. There's no doubt that Nogueira, Fabricio, Barnett and Hunt are the same, too.
The Open Weight Grand Prix Second Round card has become the world's greatest matchups between the world's greatest fighters. While each of these fights could be a potential Final Round match, who will be able to dominate their opponent advance to the true Final Round where the PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix Champion will be crowned?