The September 10th PRIDE FINAL CONFLICT ABSOLUTE 2006 Final Round drew to a close with Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic's dramatic win. However, the MVP responsible for really setting the event on fire was Josh Barnett. Despite being covered in injuries after the event, Barnett was all smiles at the press conferences and in front of the media, showing that he is truly a professional. We went to speak with PRIDE's newest hero.
Pride Fighting Championships:
How do you feel now that the Open Weight Grand Prix is over?
I feel really good. Of course, I feel a lot of things whenever I think back on the fight. I'm tired, my body hurts and some things are still unfinished. I feel relatively satisfied that I did what I could, though.
No, not at all. (laughing) It was really good sleep.
I would like you to think back on the fight with Nogueira. You said that fight would be a battle between Jujitsu and Catch Wrestling. Do you think you were able to show the differences between the two styles in your fight?
I think I was able to show their differences and I think I proved that catch wrestling is strong. I was always pressuring him, and so I was tired but I got a lot of positions and I was able to set up submissions, which is very important. That last knee-bar was basically locked-in and Nogueira was yelling in pain, so I thought he was going to tap out.
Nogueira seems to attack slowly after getting a solid position. You, however, kept changing your techniques if they didn't work right away. To me, that looked like one of the big differences.
That's true. That's my fighting style. In terms of positioning, Nogueira was able to get position because I didn't want to do too much and run out of stamina, and I let him get positions. I attacked whenever he moved to improve his positioning. I was always fighting that way to keep the fight moving.
The first front choke. It was almost in and Nogueira was panicking. The second front choke took a lot of stamina from Nogueira, too. The biggest one was the knee-bar in the end, though. I think he was ready to tap out and even if he doesn't want to admit that, I would have won if I had another three seconds.
It also looked like Nogueira's arm bar was on tight, too.
I was extremely tired after the fight with Nogueira. I felt exhausted but I had to focus on coming up with a strategy for the next fight during that time. I had to do something to get over the exhaustion. I knew I would have to fight twice in one day, so I prepared for that in my training, but my body just wouldn't keep up. Now I realize that you have to be in 100% to fight in the Final Round. Before the fight, though, I said "Nogueira, you're already dead," and I was definitely able to prove that.
Nogueira is apparently very unsatisfied with the decision.
I've always said that if it goes to the decision, there's nothing you can do about it, even if you don't agree with the decision. You have to leave it up to the judges. If the fight goes to the decision, it means you didn't do your job of finishing the fight. Once the fight is over, I also looked confident that I had won but I also toned down my feelings because in truth, I didn't finish the fight either. Nogueira yelled from my knee-bar in the end. I think yelling in that situation is equivalent to giving up, just as it says in the rulebook. They always say they don't agree with the decision when they lose. If it goes to the decision, you have to respect the decision. If I lose, I lose. If you need to be unsatisfied with something, be unsatisfied with yourself for not finishing the fight.
Did you come up with a strategy for Mirko after your fight with Nogueira?
Yes. I thought that if I have to fight Mirko, I would get close to him and take him to the ground. My body wasn't at 100% but I used all of my abilities and thought that would be the best way for me to win.
What do you think was the biggest reason for that plan falling apart?
Whenever I go into a fight, I always proudly represent Japan too, not just America. The Japanese fans understand my fight in the ring and they support me. I can feel their support very strongly, not just as a fighter but also as an individual. Personally, I have friends in Japan that are like my family and when I come to Japan, it doesn't feel like I've come to a foreign country. It feels like I've come home.
Before the fight, you said that you would have the perfect body by next year. What did you set next year as a goal and not this Grand Prix?
For one thing, I expected to win this Grand Prix and be preparing for a fight with Fedor next year. I need to be in my best condition and I want to have the ideal body because I want to fight in what I consider to be the ideal way, no matter who my opponent is.
Many fighters become injured in their fights and don't many any post-fight comments or appear at post-fight interviews. That happens a lot but you always appear before the media, no matter what your condition. You're giving this interview, for example. Why is that?
Because I think it's important to behave like a professional. I want the media to relay everything I say to the fans, not just my fights. We have jobs to do in our fights but we also cooperate with the event staff and the media to create something together. As a professional, I think it's important to say what I felt after the fight. Whether it's in an interview or before the event or after the event, we always get together and talk about our recent condition. Then the media will tell that to the fans. I think that's very important.
Finally, would you say something to your fans that supported you?
I really want to thank all of the fans for supporting me and loving the ring. I will continue to fight and give the best fights possible, so please support me in the future. Thank you very, very much for your support in the Grand Prix.