A press conference was held at the Dream Stage Entertainment office in Tokyo, Japan on June 15th to announce two single matches on the PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix 2006 Second Round card, to be held at Saitama Super Arena on July 1st.
Present at the conference were confirmed fighters Kazuhiro Nakamura and Yoshihiro Nakao.
"Today, we have some good news. We are announcing two additional matches for the July 1st PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix 2006 Second Round. There is no point in worrying about other things and for us, there is nothing to do but keep moving forward," Nobuyuki Sakakibara, Dream Stage Entertainment CEO, began the press conference, announcing the following two matches.
Kazuhiro Nakamura VS Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos
Yoshiki Takahashi VS Vitor Belfort
It was also announced that Yoshihiro Nakao would make his PRIDE debut. Nakao is famous for both giving up a likely spot as a Japanese representative in amateur wrestling in the Athens Olympics in order to make his MMA debut in "K-1 Dynamite!!" and for the kissing incident with Heath Herring last year.
"I decided to fight in PRIDE because I was interested in PRIDE's Heavyweight Division. PRIDE has that something that brings the real me out. I want to help make PRIDE exciting," Nakao said. Regarding the lead-up to Nakao's participation, Sakakibara explained, "I knew from when Nakao originally made his debut in K-1 that there is no Japanese fighter with as much potential as him. His contract with K-1 expired and since we were interested, we went through Japan Wrestling Federation Director Fukuda and had him set up a meeting for the three of us to talk. I hope that Yoshihiro Nakao will be able to realize his true potential in PRIDE."
Through a written statement, Japan Wrestling Federation Director Fukuda sent his support to both Nakao and PRIDE. "There have been many opinions and rumors flying around about recent events but we at the Wrestling Federation are backing PRIDE up, as always. Although Nakao's participation in PRIDE has been officially confirmed, I still want Nakao to do his best as a representative of amateur wrestling. PRIDE is an incredibly tough ring but I hope that Nakao will show the strength, the greatness and the pride of amateur wrestling. We will continue to send even stronger wrestlers from all over the world to the PRIDE ring, so please look forward to them."
Nakao is motivated, speaking strongly about Kazuyuki Fujita, whom he has challenged in the past, and his goals in PRIDE, "I've only been able to bring out about 50% of my true abilities so far. As a mixed martial arts venue, I've always thought that I would like to try and fight in PRIDE. I'm really looking forward to fighting here. I would like to fight Fujita and I'm ready to do it. Anytime is fine. I want people to think of Nakao when someone says PRIDE. I want to be called Nakao from PRIDE."
In response to Sakakibara's comments that DSE "received many requests from Nakao," Nakao replied jokingly, inviting laughs from the reporters, "I want to fight a handsome fighter. Ugly fighters are no good. I'll leave that up to DSE. I think Herring and I are bound together by the red string of destiny, so maybe we will fight again."
Kazuhiro Nakamura, also present at the press conference, spoke about his devotion to PRIDE in the face of Fuji TV's cancellation of PRIDE broadcasts, "Recently, there has been a lot of worry about the fate of PRIDE but under Mr. Sakakibara's system, I was allowed to make my (MMA) debut and he allowed me to fight, whether I won or lost and whether times were good or bad for me. I'm definitely going to give a great fight to pay back all of the PRIDE staff. I made my debut at the same time that the previous president Morishita died. That beginning, at a time when everyone was wondering what would happen to PRIDE, has allowed me to help make PRIDE the exciting event it is today. The situation affects me as well, so I have to do my best." Nakamura also spoke about his opponent, Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos, "He's aggressive and he has a Chute Boxe fighting style, like (Wanderlei) Silva. Although Cyborg is my opponent, I'm more focused on making this event a success and repaying PRIDE. Even if the match ends in a decision, I will constantly be working for a submission or a KO right up until the bell."
Which may explain why Nakamura apparently didn't care for Nakao's light attitude towards PRIDE. With Nakao right in front of him, Nakamura said, "What he has done in the past is different from what we do here and he doesn't understand how tough PRIDE is. He needs to stop making jokes and get ready." Following the press conference, Nakamura continued, "It's not that I hate Nakao. It's just that I really care a lot about PRIDE and with both of us at the press conference; I realized how different we are. I get angry when I see someone joking around like that. No one loves PRIDE more than I do."
"K-1 is tough in its own way and of course, I'm aware of that. I want to be able to bring that out well in the PRIDE ring. I've never fought in PRIDE but I think the only difference with K-1 is whether knees are allowed in the four-points position," Nakao said.
Although Yoshiki Takahashi, who will face Vitor Belfort, was present at the conference, his only comments were, "I don't really have anything to say. It will be a punch-out, as always."
● Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara's Comments
I've already spoken to Nakao and I don't think we'll see a repeat of his match of his match on New Year's Eve. You have to play by the rules. [When told there is no rule against kissing] Well, I guess it's okay then. (laughing) At any rate, with PRIDE in the current situation, with people wondering if fighters are going to leave, Nakao's participation in PRIDE is extremely valuable. I expected him to say that he wants to fight in PRIDE, but not this time. However, I'm happy that he decided to compete in PRIDE right away.
I'm really grateful for what Nakamura said, too. He's continued to fight in PRIDE and we too have special feelings for the fans and fighters. It gave me courage and made me very happy. Nakamura isn't starting over exactly but I hope he will make this a good re-start for himself.
There has been no particular change in the situation since the last press conference. We've received many encouraging letters from our fans and we are truly grateful. As a promoter, it's not often that you are given an opportunity to make that kind of connection with your fans. I felt that there are many, many fans our there that have special feelings toward PRIDE and it has inspired us to work even harder.
Following that press conference, I went to America. In terms of putting on a show in America, there has been no loss of popularity for PRIDE there and all of the fights from the August 26th event will be broadcast on FOX SPORT in prime time. Lots of things are happening in America.
At the current time, I believe there are stations other than Fuji TV that would accept us immediately. There was no clear reason given by Fuji TV for the cancellation of our contract, such as "we did it because of THIS", and we, of course, never actively did anything to damage their dignity and image. It happened as a result of a fabricated article being spread around. Of course, it's natural to expect that something else might come up and as DSE, we are just quietly doing the things that we need to do, and working on building up a relationship of trust again. That takes time so a quick return to terrestrial broadcasts, even on another station, is not likely. As far as SKY Perfect is concerned, they haven't said they would cancel the broadcast and I'm confident that they will, in fact, continue to broadcast PRIDE.