A press conference was held in DSE Tokyo headquarters to announce two matches for the May 22nd PRIDE BUSHIDO Vol. 7. BUSHIDO's 83kg ace, Ryo Chonan, will face Nino "Elvis" Schembri and Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett will face BUSHIDO newcomer and undefeated Pancrase lightweight Yoshiro Maeda.
"I don't want to be a hero. I want to be a tough guy." According to Chonan, he'd rather fight the tough opponents, giving the best fights and win, rather than just fighting easy guys to fluff up his record. "I'm really grateful that I've been in the news so much and have been treated like a main event fighter. However, I don't want to fool myself because I definitely don't want to be a TV star or a celebrity. Just because I'm in the news doesn't mean I'll win my fights. I want to fight seriously. That's my attitude."
"Will you be able to set the fans on fire," asked Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara, also present at the conference. "We expect you to bring out your opponent's potential and give us an entertaining fight."
Chonan's view was a little different, though. "In my mind, the perfect win is with a single hit. I think everyone would enjoy that a lot and he's not an opponent I can play around with. I think if I try to finish it in the 1st round, it will naturally be an entertaining match. This is about fighting, not pro-wrestling. That's how I've fought up to now and that's how I will fight from now one. I'm not going to wait for the judge's decision or be weak and scared in my fights. If I just go out there simply to knock the other guy out, the fans will appreciate it. It's not about your opponent. Fighting is about not losing to yourself."
Just from that it seems that Chonan is resistant to what Sakakibara wants but in reality, that's not the case. If he can knock his opponent out in seconds, the fans would be surprised. If he goes straight in, trying to pressure his opponent, and his opponent fights back, it'll be a real battle that will naturally be an entertaining fight. If Chonan goes out and gives everything he's got trying to win, his opponent will have no choice but to do the same. Rather than trying to make a good fight, he wants to have a naturally good fight and, in the end, that's exactly what Sakakibara wanted.
During the conference, Chonan twice said that he might lose the fight. It's rare for a fighter to doubt himself publicly before a fight but that's exactly what he did. "(Nino) is probably coming in with the same attitude as me. Just saying you will win won't entertain the fans. The fight is more interesting because I might lose. The fans may think that I can win this easily because of all the attention put on me recently but I treat every single fight as if I'm walking on the edge of a cliff."
Chonan's opponent will be Nino Schembri, sometimes called the "Second Rickson", and is a grappling wizard in the BJJ world. He has a 1-1 record against Kazushi Sakuraba, beating Sakuraba by KO with a knee kick in their first match. Schembri entered the Chute Boxe Academy 1 year ago to become a stronger MMA fighter. There he learns striking from the Chute Boxe group and teaches grappling to them. When Sakakibara went to visit Brazil, he commented about Schembri's training, warning Chonan, "He's learned a lot of striking. He'd definitely a different Nino than he was before."
Chonan's looking forward to the challenge of a stronger Schembri. "I've requested many fighters in the past but I was lucky this time. He said that he wants to fight me. He's representing Chute Boxe at 83kg so I can't look past him and there is a possibility that I may lose, but I have to keep moving forward."
Just as Sakakibara said, it would be a big mistake to think that Schembri is the same fighter he was when he fought Sakuraba and Hamanaka. He's been at Chute Boxe for a year already and his striking has probably improved a lot because he trains hard with Wanderlei Silva, Murilo Rua and the other fighters. Another point of interest is that Nino has fought as a middleweight until now but this time, he will be closer to his true division as an 83kg welterweight. Fighting at his best weight, he won't be too weak and he won't have to try to gain weight, either. We will finally be able to see the real Nino Schembri.
"He wasn't fighting at his real weight before," Chonan commented. "This will be the first time Nino can show his real strength in PRIDE. He's 1-1 with Sakuraba and that's a real testament to his skill. Knocking out Sakuraba with a knee wasn't a fluke. I think he did exactly what he had to do."
Chonan's name has spread across the world after beating world-class fighters such as Carlos Newton and Anderson Silva. It seems that both Chute Boxe and the Brazilian Top Team both have their eyes set on Chonan. Murilo Bustamante and Daniel Acacio, both fighters in the previous BUSHIDO, are looking to take Chonan's head.
Chonan continued, "I do feel I should be taken seriously. PRIDE is a Japanese organization. If Japanese fighters can't win, I don't know what will happen to it. At a minimum, I'm going to win. There's nothing in my head but knocking out my opponent."
Yoshiro Maeda will make his first PRIDE appearance in BUSHIDO Vol. 7. "This is my first BUSHIDO fight but I don't want to be someone that was just there. I want to leave my mark, leave an image of me being a strong guy. I'm motivated because they've arranged for a tough opponent and I plan on making this my best fight ever."
No doubt a lot of fans still remember Maeda's opponent, Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett. With his gold teeth and his wild fighting style, he looks a lot like an early Quinton Jackson, giving Takanori Gomi a tough fight. "We wanted to see how well Maeda can excite the fans when he has a tricky opponent," Sakakibara explained. "I want him to fight so others are inspired by his match. Bennett has a flexible body and he's gained experience in several matches since his last fight (in BUSHIDO). I think he will show us something new."
"If he gets on the top rope again, I'm going to drop kick him," Maeda responded. "I'm going to go after his so hard that he's not going to have time to think about showing off!" Maeda is naturally a 65kg fighter, a big difference from the BUSHIDO 73kg limit. "I've never fought a fighter at that weight so I'll have to think while I'm doing it. I don't think that bigger means stronger anyway, so I'll do everything that I can with the weight I have."
Maeda is currently undefeated in MMA, with 13 wins. He says that he's not really interested in his record but, "Kondo and I want to show that Pancrase can win. There are people that don't know about the lighter weight Pancrase fighters and I want them to see the level that we fight at."