Shockwave '06 Press Conference held in Tokyo

A press conference was held at the Dream Stage Entertainment office in Tokyo, Japan on December 5th where two exciting Lightweight matches were announced for PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2006, to be held on December 31st at Saitama Super Arena. Present at the arena were announced competitors Tatsuya Kawajiri (T-BLOOD) and Shinya Aoki (Paraestra Tokyo) and both spoke about this big opportunity.

Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara, PRIDE General Director Nobuhiko Takada and Public Relations Director Shigeru Saeki attended the press conference. As soon as the conference began, Saeki said, "Recently, every person I meet asks me what's going on with the New Year's Eve card. To be honest, we have too many all-stars gathered together. We could put on 15 fights but if it was (long) like the last BUSHIDO, that wouldn't be good so we're looking into different options. We are doing our best to put together the cards that the fans want to see and will get excited for." Saeki then continued, announcing two amazing cards fitting of a New Year's Eve event.

Tatsuya Kawajiri (T-BLOOD)
Gilbert Melendez (Jake Shields Fight Team)

Shinya Aoki (Paraestra Tokyo)
Joachim Hansen (Frontline Academy)

Shinya Aoki and Gilbert Melendez were initially supposed to fight at the November Yokohama Arena event but Melendez was unable to compete due to an injury and had to withdraw. However, after the event, Aoki personally challenged Melendez to a fight on New Year's Eve. "At that point, the match-ups looked like Aoki VS Melendez and Kawajiri VS Hansen," Saeki explained how the current card was developed. "However, Kawajiri and Hansen had a poor showing in the SHOOTO Yoyogi event held in February of this year [Kawajiri won by disqualification at 8 seconds of the 1st round due to a low-blow by Hansen]. PRIDE also has a good relationship with SHOOTO and we decided that this particular fight wasn't one that should be put on by PRIDE this New Year's Eve. Even so, we knew that Kawajiri VS Melendez and Aoki VS Hansen would also be very exciting matches." Of course, Aoki VS Melendez is still a card that the fans, and the DSE staff, want to see but the two cards announced today are still at the forefront of the Lightweight Division and could easily headline the PRIDE Lightweight Grand Prix rumored to be held next year.



"I'm very excited about his New Year's Eve fight," commented Aoki. "Will I put Hansen to sleep with a submission? Or will Hansen put me to sleep with strikes? I think this will be like a battle to the death and I want to make this a fight that will excite the fans." Although his opponent has changed from Melendez to Hansen, it doesn't appear to have affected his motivation, "I'm a professional and I will fight anyone, so it doesn't bother me. I don't feel one way or the other if my opponent is Hansen or Melendez. I'm excited that I'm able to fight an extremely tough opponent on New Year's Eve."

Asked about his impression of Hansen, Aoki replied with a smile, "He's European, bald and he's built like me. That's about it. (laughing) I'm told that he's good at pounding and submissions from the bottom but I don't plan on being hit. I think this will be a good fight that ends with me submitting him. Kawajiri was kicked in the groin by Hansen in February and I was also kicked in the groin in my October SHOOTO match so, if nothing else, I will make sure that I don't get kicked in the groin." When the questioning turned to the planned Lightweight Grand Prix next year, Aoki said, "Speaking seriously, if I just fight normally, the results will speak for themselves. Speaking boldly, I want to be the star! (laughing)"

Kawajiri, on the other hand, chose his words carefully as he looked back on 2006 and spoke about his fight with Melendez, "I decided at the beginning of this year that no matter what people said to me and no matter what happened, I will follow my own path and improve myself as I fight. I submitted Krazy Horse in the June BUSHIDO, knocked out Brennan in the August BUSHIDO and won by taking down and pounding my opponent in the October SHOOTO event. I think I was able to show that I have a good balance of strikes, submissions and takedowns. I also believe that I will be able to show all of those off in my New Year's Eve match.

The front line for the Lightweight Grand Prix rumored for next year is confused at the moment but I will beat Melendez and rise above the rest. Melendez is coming in undefeated and he's got momentum behind him but I am better at punching, throwing and submitting. I am better at everything. Using all the principles of SHOOTO, I will make my fight stand out and I will be the MVP on New Year's Eve."

Gilbert Melendez is one of the fighters that even "tough fighters" think twice about fighting and Takanori Gomi, the PRIDE Lightweight Champion, has admitted that Melendez is "stronger than Aurelio." Kawajiri is also well aware of Melendez's reputation, commenting, "Everyone has a period where they are young and motivated. I'm sure he doesn't believe that he can lose. He probably thinks that even if he gets hit, it won't hurt someone like him but I don't plan on losing to his momentum." Kawajiri is nicknamed "Crusher" but Melendez's fight style also revolves around crushing his opponent. "I believe that this is going to be a test of patience, whether on the ground or standing, and the first person to doubt themselves will lose. Melendez and I are both going to go all out to destroy each other. When I fight, I will be there to crush Melendez," Kawajiri warned of a head-to-head battle. "Some people consider Melendez to be a leading challenger for the Lightweight Championship title and if I beat him convincingly, I think my time will come. This is a very important fight," Kawajiri commented, declaring this a battle to see who will be the next star of PRIDE.

PRIDE Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi has also been named as a planned competitor on New Year's Eve. Kawajiri commented, "It doesn't really bother me. I'm just concentrating on Melendez and I will prove that I am the greatest when I win the Grand Prix next year. My goal is to beat Melendez and dominate the PRIDE Grand Prix as the SHOOTO Champion rather than worrying about the Lightweight belt or Gomi." Aoki, on the other hand, is thinking about Takanori Gomi, "Once I move past Hansen on New Year's Eve, the next opportunity will become clear. Gomi is the Champion of my weight class so it's impossible for me not to think about him. I want to stand out on New Year's Eve." If you consider the future direction of the PRIDE Lightweight Division, including title matches and the Grand Prix, these two fights are extremely significant. Asked what impact they would like to leave on New Year's Eve, the two fighters replied as follows.

(Aoki) "Submissions VS striking. Live or die? That's the kind of fight we will have."

(Kawajiri) "My fight will leave everyone watching with their mouths gaping open."

Closing out the conference, Shigeru Saeki added, "In terms of the Japan VS the world concept, these are two amazing cards. There will be other amazing cards but as a martial arts maniac', these are the cards that I want to watch the most." In addition to the "maniac" Saeki, martial arts fans across the world are looking forward to these exciting bouts on New Year's Eve.

Messages also arrived from Joachim Hansen and Gilbert Melendez.

Joachim Hansen: I'm very excited because I haven't been in the PRIDE ring for a long time and this will be my first New Year's Eve fight. Aoki is a strong submission fighter and I think this will be a very exciting fight. I'm going to "execute" him and go after Gomi's belt. I'm looking forward to meeting the fans in Japan.

Gilbert Melendez: Unfortunately, I wasn't able to compete in the last BUSHIDO due to an injury but I've started training again and I'm in perfect condition. I thought I would be fighting Aoki this time but I am willing fight anybody. Kawajiri is also an incredible fighter, so I know we will be able to put on an exciting fight. This fight will be very important to my career so I will fight with everything I have to make the fans happy.