Additional cards for the joint PRIDE BUSHIDO 12 and PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix Second Round event, to be held on August 26th at Nagoya's Rainbow Hall, were announced at a July 24th press conference held at PRIDE'S "Dreamer's" gym in Tokyo. Included were three newcomers representing the next generation of fighters.
BUSHIDO Public Relations Director Shigeru Saeki excitedly said, "When we were looking for Japanese fighters that are competitive as Lightweights but haven't yet fought in a major organization, these are the three fighters we wanted. These three have talent!"
The three newcomers are Nobuhiro Obiya, DEEP Lightweight Champion and undefeated since he made his pro-debut as Takanori Gomi's student, Shinya Aoki, Pro SHOOTO Middleweight World Champion and a top-level grappler known for his mastery of flying submissions, and Hatsu Hioki, Featherweight Champion of Canadian MMA organization TKO, ranked 9th in SHOOTO's World Lightweight rankings and called "the SHOOTO kid."
"I will fight my own fight, right down the middle," Aoki said. "This will be my first time in BUSHIDO. I want to show all of the abilities that I have," Hioki said, looking a little nervous.
In contrast to the two fighters, Obiya spoke about his own thoughts. "I've always trained with Gomi and I was right beside him, watching as he won ten consecutive fights and became the Champion, so actually fighting in PRIDE was a dream of mine. Times are a little dark for PRIDE but being able to compete in this event is a good opportunity for me. I want to explode and go crazy. I'm going to be wild," Obiya said, with an authority resembling that of Gomi.
The three fighters explained their reasons for competing in BUSHIDO.
"Gomi is the Champion, so I don't want to wear the Lightweight (Championship) belt. Compared to Sakurai and Kawajiri, I have the least experience and I believe that I can grow even stronger. There are many professional rings but I wanted to fight on the stage that has the strongest fighters. I came here to become stronger." (Obiya)
"I wondered what I need to become stronger and thought that if I'm going to fight, there's nowhere but BUSHIDO. Becoming stronger was the greatest reason." (Aoki)
"I want to increase my abilities in the greatest venue. That's all." (Hioki)
Nagoya gave birth to Hioki, a mixed martial arts fighter competitive on the world-level. When Hioki came to the Nagoya BUSHIDO event last year as a corner man, he said "the cheers from the fans made it feel like the ground was rumbling." Although Hioki normally fights at 65kg~66kg, he has no plans to increase his weight and will fight his opponent at his usual weight. "I want to challenge myself in a big event." Asked about his opponent Jeff Curran, Hioki rated him highly, "My image of him is a strong grappler with a good overall balance. I think he's the tough type, like myself."
Aoki has an excellent record in many grappling events throughout the world, has won many of his matches with unusual submissions and is Japan's strongest grappler. "I want everyone to pay attention to my submissions. I don't think that anyone will submit me. I want to have a back-and-forth battle of submission no matter who my opponent is," Aoki said, declaring that he intended to win through his submission techniques. His opponent, Jason Black, made his first Japanese appearance in PRIDE BUSHIDO 11 and showed why he is a fighter to be feared. He's a tough submission fighter from America but Aoki remains relaxed, "I will fight my own fight, no matter who my opponent is. I want to get a submission quickly and win."
Obiya gave monstrous, aggressive fights, setting the DEEP venues on fire. He is a fighter that the fans have long desired to see fight in PRIDE. Obiya's opponent, Gilbert Melendez is a "Japanese killer", having destroyed Hiroyuki Takaya, Naoya Uematsu and Rumina Sato. He is a tough fighter among tough fighters and has come to BUSHIDO to claim Gomi's head. Obiya, however, is looking forward to their battle, "I know he's strong but I wanted to fight fighters that are stronger than me, so I'm happy that I got what I wanted. I think he's the perfect opponent for me to go crazy on in my first match here." Obiya continued, "Of course, if you don't have technical, physical and mental strength, you can't compete in PRIDE. I think our fight will transcend that and become something amazing."
Regarding Obiya, Gomi commented, "He talks a little too much. (laughing)" Gomi then sent a message to the younger fighter, "This is a chance for him to become stronger. I know that he will show everyone a strong fight and will be a force in this wonderful ring in the future. I believe this will be his start. Only the chosen few can compete in the PRIDE ring, so I want him to be confident and do his best."
For the hard-core MMA fans, this is card worth of envy. There's little doubt that fans who see these three fighters for the first time will be shocked that there were fighters this strong in Japan. The three newcomers are going to set the August 26th Nagoya show on fire!