On July 2nd, the day after the PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix 2006 Second Round, Dream Stage Entertainment held a press conference at the PRIDE Dreamers dojo. Present at the conference were Nogueira, Silva and Josh, and each spoke about their advancement to the Final Round. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic was not present at the conference due to oversleeping.
PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada took the lead role, beginning the conference by raising his glass and toasting to the success of the previous day's event.
"The world was a big hurdle. The world was strong. If Yoshida and Fujita were compared to the World Cup, they would be like (Japanese soccer player) Nakata. Although they may have lost, as sportsmen, they did it magnificently," Takada praised the efforts of the two Japanese fighters. Then he continued, briefly commenting on the remaining fighters.
Calling Wanderlei Silva "Mr. Pride", Takada praised him highly saying that Silva "gave us a wonderful fight that gave us hope for the Final Round." Regarding Josh Barnett, Takada declared Barnett as being the a strong candidate for the Championship, "As a PRIDE fighter, he definitely understands the feelings of the fans and he's very close to Fedor. I've heard people saying that Josh will probably be the Grand Prix Champion. That's how close Josh's connections with the fans are."
"It's a rare thing to see someone win in PRIDE by low-kicks," Takada said of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, praising Mirko's technical skill. "While it doesn't necessarily mean that it will work on the top fighters, it would have been impossible to put Yoshida away like that without being very skilled."
Takada also rated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira highly, saying, "Despite being told that as a jujitsu fighter, Fabricio is better, Nogueira pulled it out to win a close battle and his wins so far have been amazing."
"I could strongly feel the difference in intensity between the 1st and 2nd halves," Takada said, reflecting on areas for improvement in the event. "The four Grand Prix cards were so strong that I was worried if the fights in the 1st half would be able to keep up. I think the fights were consistent as the event progressed, though. There were four fighters making their PRIDE debut and since they haven't been recognized as PRIDE fighters yet, I don't think the fans felt the PRIDE spirit from them. I think we would have been able to create PRIDE-style intensity if we had someone like Randleman, Coleman or Vovchanchyn. Nakao's opponent probably wasn't a very good barometer to judge Nakao's potential." Takada continued, "Despite that, were we able to give the usual PRIDE scenery? We will listen to the fans for the final judgment and put together matches that are fitting of the fighters."
Continuing, Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara spoke about some difficulties with the event, "There were several areas different from previous PRIDE events but I think those will leave to a better PRIDE in the future. Although it's necessary to have familiar points, it's also important to change. PRIDE was born in Japan but there are millions of fans across the world awaiting its broadcast. We will continue moving forward with a worldwide perspective."
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: I'm happy that once again I will advance to the Final Round. The four remaining fighters are the best fighters this year. I will continue to challenge myself as a fighter. I will do my best in preparation for the Final Round and give a good fight. I know it's unfortunate for the fans that Fedor won't be fighting but the fighters that are here will give fights that are just as good. Everyone will give good fights and I will do my best.
Wanderlei Silva: I'm also happy to be in the Grand Prix. I think yesterday's event was fitting for PRIDE. I was able to give a fight fitting of a Champion, in many ways. PRIDE is creating a new age. I think it will become an even better event. Yesterday, PRIDE proved that it is the number one mixed martial arts event in the world. I want to do my best and show the fans great fights. With the support of the fans, we will all do our best. We can do our best because of the cheers from the fans. That's why we train. We want to show our strength to the world, not just Japan! PRIDE is on television in Brazil and I've heard that it may be broadcast on free television at the end of the year. That would be a big step.
Josh Barnett: The Open Weight Championship belt is on the line and these four fighters remain. The winners were those with stamina left. Those without it are left behind. I'll go back to my country and do what I have to do to prepared and condition myself. The fighters remaining here are the best fighters in the world. Winning two more fights means you are crowned the best in the world and you get the (Championship) belt. Yesterday, I was surrounded by wonderful fans and moved even more than usual. PRIDE is in a difficult place and I'm truly grateful to all the fans for their support. PRIDE has left behind a wonderful history but I want to accomplish something that will be even greater.
The fighters gave interested answers during the Q&A session with reporters. Josh, who challenged Nogueira in the ring in August 2002, said, "My feelings haven't changed. I want to fight Nogueira. Nogueira's not the Champion now but that doesn't matter. I knew I wanted to fight him when I saw him the first time I went to ADCC."
Nogueira, hearing that, seemed ready to accept the challenge; "Josh certainly did challenge me in 2002, didn't he? Now we will have the chance to fight in the Grand Prix. I think it would be a great match if we fight in the Final Round. I will do my best. I want to fight him at 100%." Both fighters seem confident that a match-up between them would be the best bout of the night.
Asked who he wanted to fight in the Semi-Final Round, Barnett replied, "All four fighters remaining in the Semi-Final Round are strong. These three fighters have strong records, so I would like to fight all of them. If you asked why I would like to fight Silva, I would say that it's because Silva is Silva. He's the Middleweight Champion and he's got a long record as Mr. PRIDE. Nogueira was the Heavyweight Champion and he has beaten a lot of fighters. I've lost twice to Mirko already. I know I can do more, so I definitely want to get revenge. If I can beat two of the three fighters, I can become Champion but even after that, I will still have to fight these fighters. Being able to fight these kind of fighters is a blessing to me."
Nogueira, answering the same question, replied, "The remaining fighters are the best in the world. There isn't an event as great as PRIDE. Silva is the Middleweight Champion, Josh has been a UFC and Pancrase Champion, and I'm the former PRIDE Heavyweight Champion. Mirko also has a great record. No matter who wins, it will be a great fight. It's difficult to fight twice in one day but each fight will be a great one. PRIDE and the fans should decide my opponent. I will just do my best and fight my way up to the Final Round."
While both fighters consider each other as rivals, they basically replied that anyone is fine. However, Wanderlei Silva named a specific fighter. "Any of these 3 fighters would make for a tough fight. I've heard that the fights will be decided by votes from the fans but if I were to choose, I would definitely like to fight Mirko. Our previous fight was a draw under special rules but I was winning. I want to finish it this time. This time, I will knock him out."
Silva and Mirko faced off in April 2002 in a special-rules match, consisting of five, three-minute rounds and time limits on the ground. The match turned into a spectacular striking battle and with Silva taking Mirko down twice, he was definitely the aggressor. It was a draw under the no-decision rules but now Silva wants to settle it once and for all.
Barnett had something to say about that, though, saying that he wants a revenge match with Mirko. "My 1st match with Mirko was a loss but it was also caused by an accident. I lost the 2nd match but I hadn't been training hard. I was still recovering from my injury and I wasn't in good condition. Next time we fight, I will prove that I'm completely different now. I don't just want a rematch, though. I feel like I have to do what I have to do. Honest, I want revenge. He's called the pro-wrestler hunter but I won't let him be called that about me."
Through his manager, Mirko commented that Mirko only wants to fight one of the three fighters in the Semi-Final Round. He feels the same as Silva about their last fight and he was to settle things with Silva in a new match.
● Nobuyuki Sakakibara: The numbers from the PPV will be out in about one week. Josh won, so the reviews of the American PPV were good, too.
We're expanding our view to include the world but first we will concentrate on America. We'll have a surprise ready for America in the near future. We are considering our strategy. We want to solidify our position in the American market. Financially, America is at the top and if we do this right, we won't be outdone by the UFC, either.
The American market is undergoing explosive growth. If we can't secure the American market, we may not be able to keep the greatest fighters in the world in PRIDE. Fight money in the UFC is rapidly rising. The reason Royce (Gracie) will fight in the UFC is because they can pay an incredible purse. Until now, people have said that PRIDE pays the most in fight money but that may be reversed now. As a professional sport, and to continue being the place of dreams, breaking ground in America is an urgent job for PRIDE. Everyone has already begun making offers to PRIDE fighters.
They are a strong competitor and it's impossible to fight them on all fronts, so we'll have to start off slowly. (laughing) We will face them with many strategies.
We're still just sowing seeds in America so it's a little early to reap the rewards but we are raising the harvest.