A press conference was held on July 24th at PRIDE's "Dreamers" gym in Tokyo to announce additional cards and confirmed fighters 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. All three members of Team Ibaraki, Hayato "Mach" Sakurai, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Mitsuhiro Ishida, will fight in this event.
"The Brazil of Japan" That's what Ibaraki Prefecture is being called now after producing so many tough fighters. Ibaraki's three MMA representatives, Team Ibaraki, will all fight together in the August 26th BUSHIDO event in Nagoya.
Mitsuhiro Ishida instantly gained attention when on June 4th in PRIDE BUSHIDO 11 he soundly defeated Marcus Aurelio, the only person to defeat PRIDE Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi in PRIDE. Ishida will now use his high-speed tackles to stir up a refreshing wind in Nagoya.
"This will be my third fight in BUSHIDO and I'm happy that I've been able to fight at such a high-pace," Ishida said. "My opponent hasn't been decided yet but I know that a fight in BUSHIDO will be exciting, no matter who my opponent is, so I'm training every day as hard as my body will allow." Asked if he has the right to challenge Gomi (for the Championship title) since Ishida beat Aurelio, Ishida replied, "For the moment, I've heard that my opponent will be a foreigner. I don't think it will be Gomi yet. The fight with Aurelio is in the past. I think the next goal for me to aim for will make itself clear in the future."
Tatsuya Kawajiri, who handed a quick defeat to Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett in the same June BUSHIDO event, said, "There will be many amazing fights on August 26th. I want to fight in my own way, so I don't get lumped in with everyone else. Because the times are like they are, I believe that the fighters have to come together as one and make MMA more exciting overall."
"BUSHIDO is different from SHOOT in that there are no rankings here. There's a Champion but I've never worried about who was on top or who was on bottom. I don't feel that I'm above the three new fighters and I'm always ready to fight. Just having Japanese VS Japanese fights isn't very interesting though so I would like to see Japanese fighters like myself take out strong foreign fighters on the greatest stage in the world and then once everything has become exciting, having Japanese VS Japanese fights to see who can go even higher," Kawajiri commented on the increasing number of Lightweight newcomers which is changing him from the hunter to the hunted. Kawajiri is ready to take on all challengers but first it seems that he wants to prove that Japanese fighters are the strongest.
Another thing that stood out at today's press conference was the size of Kawajiri's body. His body shape has clearly changed since his first fight and you can see how muscular he has become even through his suit. He has become so muscular that his head looks small!
"I've been training basic strength building and I've built a body capable of fighting at 73kg but I'm not finished yet. My normal weight, my current weight, is about 80kg," Kawajiri said to which a surprised BUSHIDO Public Relations Director Shigeru Saeki asked, "Do you really weigh 80kg??"
Kawajiri is the sole Team Ibaraki member whose opponent has been finalized. Kawajiri will face Chris Brennan, an American fighters who specializes in, and often wins with, submissions. Brennan has boasted that if he can't submit his opponent, he'd rather lose by KO than let the fight go to the decision. Kawajiri, with a slight smile, seem unconcerned speaking about his opponent, "I just said okay when they offered the fight to me. I want to destroy him. I will carefully evade his strengths and fight with technique."
"The guys from Ibaraki are on a roll," Mach, the leader of Team Ibaraki said. "I hope everyone will win their fights with KOs or submissions in these fights, too." Asked about being hunted by the new fighters, Mach replied that he is ready and eager for the challenge, "They're all good fighters. MMA is interesting because if you move up, fight and win, you will move even farther up the ladder. Let's all do our best."
Additionally, when the fighters found out that this BUSHIDO event will also be used to select fighters for the October 21st PRIDE event in the US, "PRIDE: THE REAL DEAL", Mach said, "I don't have any good memories (from the US) and I really hate it when my environment changes. I love Japan the most, so I want to fight in Japan. The fans in America get unusually wild and I don't really like that." Ishida said, "I've had two fights overseas and lost both times. So, if I am able to fight (in the US), I want to do it because I think it will be a positive experience for me." Kawajiri added, "I want to enjoy the fight as Ishida's corner man and as a fan. (laughing) I don't have much faith in airplanes though, so it's probably impossible. I always think they're going to fall so I don't really want to go. If I had the chance though, I'd like to go."
Finally, Mach turned to face Kawajiri and Ishida and said, "It's either KOs or submissions", to which both fighters smiled and nodded their heads. Hopefully, the fans will be treated to a KO and submission competition between Team Ibaraki in Nagoya on August 26th.