POST OWGP PRESS CONFERENCE IN TOKYO
09/12/2006

A press conference was held on September 11th in a Tokyo hotel, a day after the Final Round of PRIDE FINAL CONFLICT ABSOLUTE 2006 in which Mirko "Cro Cop" won an emotionally victory to become the 1st PRIDE Open Weight Champion. Filipovic and Josh Barnett, who took 2nd place, took the stage in front of a large crowd of people, including domestic and foreign press and 110 PRIDE fans.


PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada spoke excitedly, "Despite the high level of the event, our first Open Weight Champion, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, fought with intensity in both fights, winning his way to the top. Additionally, Josh Barnett was undeniably the MVP of yesterday's event. On behalf of the fans and the staff, I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for your hard work, and also for the energy and emotions that you have given to us."
Takada continued, "Looking back on yesterday's event, I think the two Semi-Final fights and the Final fight in particular made the event. At the same time, while I won't say that they were horrible, I will say there we were also shown some incredibly low-level fights yesterday. Let me name names. Nishijima. Nakao. Nakamura. They have skills but I had hoped they would show us their will to win and refusal to lose. In that sense, the event had more to offer than just being good. This event left us with themes that will continue throughout the Las Vegas and New Year's Eve events. As an event promoter, I wanted them to correct the path they're on. While you have to be just as intense as the fighters, I think we were able to show a PRIDE event worthy of the name PRIDE to the fans yesterday."
Although Takada started by saying that he would keep his words brief, the previous night's battles were apparently so exciting that he could not help himself and ended up speaking excitedly for a long time.
Continuing, Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara addressed the fans, "Having Mirko appear at a press conference is a rare opportunity. This is very valuable" Hearing this comment, Filipovic, sitting next to Sakakibara, couldn't help but smile.
Sakakibara continued, also speaking excitedly about the event, "Considering how hard they fought yesterday, I'm sure Mirko and Josh must want to sleep late today but I appreciate that they have forced their bodies to come here today. Personally, I was moved by all of the fights and the event as a whole. It really hit me when Mirko wrapped the belt around himself. Seeing those tears fall, I though I caught a short glimpse of everything Mirko has lived through in his life. He never gave up. No matter how many times he fell down, he always got up again. That's what I learned from Mirko and he has given me courage. Through the fights, PRIDE wants to show the world how the fighters feel about life and touch the hearts of PRIDE fans. I think it was these two fighters that turned this spirit into a reality. I also believe that Josh will use the disappointment from this event as a spring-board to continue running toward his goal of becoming the best fighter in the world."
Barnett hid his swollen eyes behind sunglasses but it was impossible to hide the redness of his heavily damaged face. Despite his conditions, Barnett till took the time to smile to the fans and maintained a resolute attitude throughout the press conference.
"Good morning," Barnett greeted the fans and press. "Every fighter hates to lose. It's disappointing and unfortunate that I wasn't able to become the Champion. However, everyone experiences setbacks, and unfortunately, sometimes you can't reach your goal, even though it's right in front of you. I don't think it was possible for anyone to beat Mirko yesterday. I'm glad that I was able to fight Mirko when he was in his best condition. One of my friends was crying and told me earlier that it was a great fight and that I moved them. It's unfortunate that I wasn't able to become Champion but I am happy that the fans that watched the fight were moved.
We both had difficult fights in the Semi-Finals, and beating those two (Silva, Nogueira) and then fighting in the Final Round gave new meaning to the word Championship. It was like we fought in two Grand Prixs in one night. I'm going to go home and start training again, and if I'm given another chance, I would like to fight in a tournament again."
Josh continued his comments for much longer than normal. There's no doubt that Josh was filled with conflicting emotions and thoughts such as the disappointment of losing, the happiness from fighting well and of things to come. It was a long, difficult day that must be difficult for the fighters to put into words.
The new Champion was also similarly affected. As Sakakibara said, it's rare for Filipovic to make an appearance at press conference. Even more rare was that Filipovic, a man of few words, had a lot to say today.
"One of my dreams has finally come true. It was a goal that I continued to train for a chase. I've experience many setbacks but I am very happy to be able to stand in front of everyone here today and greet you as the Champion. Josh said the same thing but we went through hell in training. Additionally, I had to fight Wanderlei Silva and he fought Nogueira in the Semi-Finals on the same night. After beating that class of fighter, Josh and I had to fight each other in the Final Round. I think there is a special taste to the victory that comes at the end of that kind of hellish challenge. I want to personally say thank you to all the fans in Japan and Croatia that have supported me."
The new Champion had much to say and everyone felt the weight of his words. Filipovic spoke quietly, choosing each of his words carefully. He had many setbacks on his path to the Championship. The true meaning of this victory is one that only Filipovic himself can understand. The Champion's comments reverberated heavily in a conference hall that was so quiet, you could have heard a pin drop. The weight of his words equaled the weight of the belt that the fighter, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, wore on his waist. The Championship belt is a heavy burden. The value of that burden is one that only the Champion himself can know.

● Reporter Questions & Answers

Pride Fighting Championships: Mirko, when you were in the ring and you began to cry, what were you thinking of?

Mirko Filipovic: The tears just came out. I wasn't thinking of anything special. The tears just came out. Why does everyone keep asking me about crying?

Pride: What did you do after the fight? Have you spoken with your family in Croatia?

Filipovic: I at with my teammates after the fight and had a little to drink. I was tired after such tough fights and I went back to the hotel by myself but I couldn't really sleep. When I think about it, I haven't really slept since two days before the fight. I spoke with my mother and my wife on the phone. They were watching yesterday's fight live on TV in Croatia, so they were crying on the phone, too. My family spoke to me about achieving my dreams but I can't talk about that here. Apparently, Croatia is going crazy over my win.

Pride: Do you have any interest in returning to Croatia as the Champion and having a PRIDE event there?

Filipovic: I would like to hold an event in the future. Not just that but I want to spread mixed martial arts as a sport in Croatia. My fights are always broadcast live on free TV in Croatia and I would like to become a driving force to develop this sport so that we can raise children that are healthy in mind and body.

Pride: How is Silva?

Nobuyuki Sakakibara: Silva is already on the airplane home. I talked to him by phone when he was at the airport. He said that he didn't have any serious injuries and that he would be fine in three weeks. Mentally, he's not broken. He was happy that he gave his best performance and that he helped make the overall event exciting.

Pride: Josh, how about your injuries?

Josh Barnett: I have injuries after the fight and I hate pain. I'm fine, though. I definitely want to fight in next month's event in Las Vegas. I want to show the American fans a great fight like the ones we had yesterday. I want them to feel what it's like to see a fight with the world's best fighters live.

Pride: Mirko, do you have any injuries?

Filipovic: I don't have much damage, just two stitches above my eyebrow. I will go anywhere that I'm told.

Pride: You were seen as an enemy in your previous fights with Silva and booed by the fans. Did you feel any difference this time when you were greeted with cheers?

Filipovic: I am a PRIDE fighter now.

Pride: Now that you have achieved this goal, what will be your next goal?

Filipovic: I just want to rest right now.

Pride: After the fight, Mirko asked Josh if he wants to train together. If you trained together, what would you like to teach each other?

Filipovic: I would learn from Josh and Josh would learn from me. I think there would be a lot of merit for both of us to train together in a variety of areas as mixed martial artists. I have fought Josh three times already. I don't really want to fight him anymore. My door is always open to him if he comes to Croatia.

Barnett: That's a difficult question because it would depend on what Mirko wants to learn. There are things that I want to add to my skill set and there are things that we don't yet understand about each other. Our backgrounds are different but we are both running towards the same goal of mixed martial arts, so I think there is a possibility that we will train together. I would definitely like to visit Croatia because they have beautiful beaches.

Pride: Josh, as a grappler, is it difficult to fight a striker like Mirko?

Barnett: Fights aren't so easy that you can think about them in terms of grappler versus striker. I've fought grapplers and strikers in the past and won easily. The opponent decides the fight. You're never going to have an easy fight with fighters at Silva, Nogueira and Mirko's level and it's not easy to talk about a type of fighter or their strengths.

Filipovic: I would like to add something. Josh showed incredibly striking in the fight yesterday against a striker in a mixed martial arts fight. I felt it when I took his low kicks. Everyone thought that I wouldn't go to the ground but I went to the ground and showed that I can fight there. Silva, Fedor, Nogueira, Josheveryone is the same. In today's mixed martial arts, especially in PRIDE, the place where the world's toughest fighters are decided, you can't force fighters in the categories of striker and grappler. After many hard lessons over these past few years, I've realized that if you don't become an all-round fighter, you won't be able to stay in this ring.

Pride: Mirko said that there's no need for you to fight again. Josh, what do you think about a rematch?

Barnett: Right now I'm thinking about achieving my goals, not about who I want to beat. My goal is to become the greatest fighter. Mirko is an incredibly good fighter and it's not personal at all. As a fighter, though, there are times when you have to fight with your fists. I don't feel like getting revenge against Mirko. I want to realize my dream of becoming the greatest fighter. If there is a request from PRIDE for a rematch, I have no control over that. I want to train as hard as I can and achieve everything that I can. That is our dream. I think the best thing is for me to keep chasing after my dream of becoming the greatest athlete in mixed martial arts.

● Fan Questions & Answers

Pride: You said that you would buy a life-size figure of Kenshiro if you won. What will you do now?

Barnett: I was after the Championship, so I was planning on buying myself something nice. I will have to buy it next time.

Pride: What will you do with your child after you go home (to Croatia?)? What do you normally do with him?

Filipovic: I called my son soon after the fight, of course. He's two and a half but he seems to understand where his father went and what he has done. He seemed very excited on the phone. For me, spending time with my son is the most important way of spending time. We walk the dog together, take walks in the forestI want him to learn something while we spend that time together.