A press conference was held recently to announce the participation of South Korean judo star Yoon Dong Sik in the opening round upcoming April 23rd PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix 2005.

Our first impression of Yoon Dong Sik was that he looked too gentle to be at the top of the sometimes vicious judo world. He looked to be both gentle and a gentleman.

However, that image changed as soon as he began to speak. "I'm both excited and honored to be able to fight in PRIDE, the greatest fighting event. I'll represent Korea in the Middleweight Grand Prix and give a fight that everyone can be proud of. I can fight with anyone using the ground work I've learned from judo. I'd like to fight my fellow judoka, Yoshida and Nakamura, as well as Sakuraba, PRIDE's representative. I'm confident that I can beat them."

Asked why he was after Japanese fighters, Yoon replied that there was "no special reason" but continued, "beating a Japanese fighter in Japan adds value to the victory. I want to fight a Japanese fighter in the Opening Round."

After the press-conference, Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara explained Yoon's reasoning. "When (Yoon) was active in judo, he rarely lost to Japanese fighters. That seems to be why he's so confident. He apparently thinks that a fight with a Japanese will be the easiest. A Japanese will be the easiest to beat. He also plans on winning the Grand Prix and thinks that a Japanese opponent in the opening round will be the easiest way."
Looking at Yoon's record, he has won more than 47 consecutive international competitions and has only lost to a Japanese opponent one time. Despite being such an accomplished judoka, Yoon has never competed in the Olympics due to complicated political reasons within the Korean judo world. That's why he's called the "King without a crown" in Korea. Also for that reason, Yoon has been forced to use all of his ground skills to submit his opponents in order to avoid bad judgment calls.

Even Yoshida has said that he absolutely does not want to fight with a Korean fighter. A Korean judo named Chon beat Yoshida in an international competition in 1994 in Canada, and consistently won within Korea. After losing 4 times to Yoon though, Chon moved from the 78kg weight class to the 86kg weight class. "They come at you hard," explained Sakakibara. "They'll do whatever it takes to win, even if it's against the rules."

Apparently, Yoon has also said that "if Yoshida can get by with that kind of ground work, I will definitely win. I'm much better than him technically."

After hearing that Yoon wants to fight a Japanese, Sakakibara feels were that "he's underestimating the Japanese fighters. There's a big possibility that he will face one in the Opening Round. Saku, Kondo and Nakamura are all available."



Pride Fighting Championships: When did you start training for MMA?
Yoon Dong Sik: Half a year ago. My specialty is ground techniques, the triangle choke in particular.
Pride: If you go pro, you'll be expelled from the judo world in Korea.
Yoon: I can't say for certain. That may happen but becoming the PRIDE Champion would raise my value.
Pride: What do you think about the Korean fighters that have fought in PRIDE and other events?
Yoon: Looking at the wrestling, judo and tae kwon do records, Korea is a strong country in martial arts. To put it bluntly though, all of the Korean fighters that have appeared in PRIDE so far were weak. If you get the elite guys here, they'll win in PRIDE. I think you'll see more of that kind of fighter in the future.
Pride: Are you practicing striking?
Yoon: I'm learning boxing from a trainer that placed in the best 8 during the Seoul Olympics.
Pride: Will you wear a judo gi?
Yoon: I haven't decided yet.

Nobuyuki Sakakibara's Comments


After expressing my desire to put some new blood in the Grand Prix, I received a long list of wrestlers that want to fight and recommendations from FILA and from Chairman Fukuda of the Japan Wrestling Federation. We also received a lot of requests from people in the judo world. From those, we chose the one with the greatest record, Yoon Dong Sik. He's got the tough Korean heart, he won't give up and he's already begun MMA training. We don't know how he will fair in MMA but I expect that he will surprise everyone.


We had a lot of offers from wrestlers, too. Amateur wrestlers definitely have high potential to use submissions on the ground but in that respect, don't compare with judo. Yoon has the technique, the finishing moves, to win if he can take the fight to the mat.


We were contacted by Yoon's side last year and we had him come out and watch the New Year's Eve event. As DSE, we were waiting for the right timing to let him make his debut. He has great potential and he can completely change the layout of the Grand Prix.


PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada's Comments


I'm looking forward to seeing Yoon fight. He's proud of his record and his strength. There was a rumor in Korea around December of last year that Yoon might fight in PRIDE. I heard that Korean journalists, judo-related people and martial arts fans felt that there was finally someone that could win in PRIDE. If you ask people that have seen him train, they'll tell you that we've got an amazing man fighting in this PRIDE. Medals and Olympics aren't everything. He's got that special Korean heart, the kind that won't let him back down. He'll bring his high-level standing techniques and his ultra high-level ground techniques to the Osaka Dome.