Kazuo Misaki, the first Japanese fighter to beat 2005 PRIDE Welterweight Champion Dan Henderson and the pride of Japan, will face Paulo Filho in Semi-Final Round of the PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix 2006, to be held at PRIDE BUSHIDO 13 in Yokohama Arena on November 5th. Will Misaki be able to conjure up a miracle and overcome Filho, considered to be one of the strongest competitors in the tournament?




Pride Fighting Championships: Both your fight against Paulo Filho and Akihiro Gono's fight against Denis Kang in the Semi-Final Rounds of the Welterweight Grand Prix were put together based upon votes from the fans. What do you think the fans want to see from these fights?
Kazuo Misaki: I think the fans have a strong image of Gono as a striker and Paulo as a ground fighter. If Paulo kept going for tackles and put Gono on the ground, Gono wouldn't be interesting anymore. I think the fans realized it just wouldn't be an interesting match up for either fighter. But Denis and Gono can both striker and that will probably be an exciting match. I think that's what the fans were hoping for. What? I didn't talk about myself? (laughing) Well, the only thing that matters is Gono and Kang, right? (laughing)
Pride: No, no. Please tell us what you think about being chosen to fight Filho, too.
Misaki: I don't knowPaulo is undefeated in mixed martial arts. Everyone probably wants to see the exact moment when that kind of undefeated fighter is beaten. They probably expect me to deliver that to them. I'm not sure, though. (laughing)
Pride: Did you always feel that you would fight Paulo Filho eventually?
Misaki: I never felt that way but I have felt that I want to fight him. I don't remember who he was fighting but I remember watching Paulo fighting someone and thinking that I want to take a shot at this guy. I do remember that.
Pride: He's the kind of fighter that completely dominates his opponents, right? Even so, you still want to fight him?
Misaki: That's true but I wonder if he will be able to keep up with me.
Pride: Of course, this fight will probably go to the ground.
Misaki: I believe that most of his opponents tried to escape once the fight went to the ground, but for a fighter that is good on the ground, an opponent that is trying to escape is even easier to fight because the ground fighter knows what they are going to do and they become trapped in his fighting style. However, if you really fight on the ground, more opportunities will open up to you. Honestly, I'm not sure if the difference in our ground skills is so big that I wouldn't have a chance. So, I'd like to take him on in grappling, too. If I don't like it, I'll stand up. If he keeps taking me down, I'll keep on standing up. I want to do whatever it is that he doesn't like and turn the fight into a mental battle. I want to bring him down mentally so that even if the fight goes to the ground, he's going to be surprised when he figures out that I can fight there, too.
Pride: Do you feel confident enough in the grappling you've learned at GRABAKA to put up a defense on the ground against Paulo?
Misaki: Yes. The fact that GRABAKA fighters have come this far proves that we are a martial arts group that can compete on the world level. (Sanae) Kikuta is one of the best grapplers in the world and Gono is known for his striking, but he has been winning with grappling recently, too. I believe that we've already proven the level of GRABAKA's grappling.
Pride: At the press conference, you said that after watching the Open Weight Grand Prix Final Round, you wanted to stand in the same position as Mirko.
Misaki: I've always been aiming for the top but now the top has finally come within arm's reach. Now that it's right in front of me, it's that much farther away. I either have to give up or keep climbing and there's no way that I'm going to give up now, with the peak right in front of me, and climb back down the mountain. I will reach the top no matter what, even if I have to crawl.
Pride: Did you win over Dan Henderson in the Semi-Finals give you confidence?
Misaki: It did a lot for my confidence. It's a big thing when you can beat someone that you've lost to before and get revenge because if you lose twice in a row, it means that you just aren't good enough. To cross a line that you weren't able to cross before, though, means that my level has improved, right? To be able to experience that on such a large scale and move up a stage was really important for my confidence. In many ways, I think my experience and strengths have really come together now that I have entered my thirties.
Pride: You went to train with your old nemesis, Ricardo Almeida, before your fight with Dan Henderson. What about this time?
Misaki: I would like to go to his gym this time too but there isn't much time until the fight.
Pride: Will you be able to concentrate on your Semi-Final fight against Filho without thinking of the Final Round?
Misaki: No, I'm thinking about the Championship. The biggest reason for entering a tournament is to stand at the top, after all. While I'm looking towards the Championship, Paulo is still in front of me and only one of us can rise to the next level.
Pride: So you also have to think of some strategy for your fight against Gono, too.
Misaki: Yeswe're always training together, though. We know everything about each other. We spend a lot of time around each other, in the gym and out. There's no way I could hide anything from him. Even if I did try to hide something and get in the ring, he would probably know it already. We are going to have to fight straight up, down the middle. Just like Gono is always saying to the foreign fighters, if I don't fight in a Japanese style and use my head, I can't win. If Gono and I meet in the Final Round, we will both fight straight up. There won't be any tricks.
Pride: What have you learned from Gono?
Misaki: How to run my mouth. (laughing) He's amazing at that. He's very smart and I think that shows in his fights. He's clever at everything.
Pride: What do you think your actual chances of beating Filho now, considering that people were calling him the probable winner since before the Grand Prix even started?
Misaki: I'd say I really have a 50/50 chance. Now matter how much stronger he might be, or how much more he might have trained, it's up to fate once you're in the ring. You never know what's going to happen, so I think as someone that lives in the world of fighting, I've got a 50/50 chance.
Pride: Are you already working on a strategy for Filho?
Misaki: I have a general idea about what kind of fight he is but I haven't really thought about trying this or that on him. If I give my brain a break, I think those kinds of thoughts will naturally form in my head. It's like wild instinct. Once you start thinking, you'll think of all kinds of things, so I'm going to give my brain a break. I think there will be a spark in my training once I'm in a more open condition.
Pride: Are you ready to die if necessary in this fight?
Misaki: If I die in this fight with Paulo, I can't go to the Final Round. (laughing) I was ready to in the last fight. I hurt my leg during the fight and it hurt, but once I was in the ring, I didn't care. I didn't care if this ended my martial arts career or if my leg were broken. Once I'm in the ring and our eyes meet, all I can think of is that I want to kill my opponent. I think my fight with Paulo will be the same way.