A press conference was held on April 6 to announce the renewal of PRIDE BUSHIDO. Until now, BUSHIDO has been a mix of themes but from now on, it will focus on the light-middleweight division. Present at the conference were 11 fighters, each commenting on the upcoming change.
Speed. Technique. Power. These are the qualities of the light-middleweight division. BUSHIDO has been a testing ground for many different ideas but beginning on May 22 in PRIDE BUSHIDO 7, BUSHIDO will be reborn as an event for the -73kg and -83 kg division fighters, centering around Takanori Gomi, Ryo Chonan and Ikuhisa Minowa.
Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara opened the press conference, showing his strong confidence in BUSHIDO. "We at DSE have resolved to bet everyone on our young Japanese samurai. We decided that this should be a place that is no less than the heavyweight and middleweight (divisions). We will have two tournaments in Autumn for the -73kg and -83kg divisions. Both the fighters and staff are going to give our all to make these divisions exciting."
However, Sakakibara has some harsh words as well. "There are fighters in these divisions that have abilities, records and potential that could be world-class but their styles and individuality haven't reached the fans and regular people. Another organization is having a press conference later today and that will probably receive more attention. Although we have to put up with that reality for the moment, I want the situation to be reversed a year from now. Otherwise, we should just give it up."
It's true that the light-middleweights have stood out in BUSHIDO. Even in the New Year's Eve event, Gomi, Chonan and Minowa gave the heavyweight fights a run for their money in terms of popularity and created enough energy to justify an event devoted to their weight class. However, the reality is that regular fans have yet to fully embrace them. It's safe to say that the fighters are aware that they've been given a one-year period to see if they can gain the support of fans in the way that the PRIDE number series and the Grand Prix have.
"My honest feelings about the BUSHIDO event the other day is that it still has a long way to go before becoming a pro event. The fighters have more skill and heart than when I was fighting but if they don't exceed what's expected in the modern fighting world, they are not going to be able to create excitement. I want BUSHIDO to become a MMA event like soccer's World Cup and baseball's World Series. The PRIDE ring is becoming a near-holy place like Yankee Stadium in America and Wimbledon in England. I can definitely feel it.
BUSHIDO's fighter are tough, strong men with a bright future ahead of them. I want them to believe that they can go anywhere in the world and win. Silva, Fedor and Nogueira always fight "for the fans". They are always aware that the fans are watching. Everyone here, this is a big chance right in front of you. Use it to win both money and honor.
You always say that you're going to do your best but everyone is doing their best. At amateur events, youth baseball, chess tournaments... everyone is doing their best. The fans aren't coming to watch you do your best, though. The fans come expecting to see high-level fights than entertain them. If you can't do that, your plan is going to fall out of the sky. You've only got enough fuel for one year, so what are you going to show the world? How high are you going to fly? Speaking honestly, there were good fighters having good fights, including Buscape. However, I forgot all about them when I saw Alexander, Minowa and Fedor fight. I want you to show me that you aren't going to lose to them. I pray that you get so fired up that you won't lose to the PRIDE number series or the GP."
Both Sakakibara and Takada had tough words for the current light-middleweight division. On the other hand, there's no mistake that the possibilities are unlimited and that a lot is expected of them, and they've got a one year time limit.
This is probably the feeling they had when they created PRIDE 1. Saeki, the president of DEEP who also serves as Public Relations Office for BUSHIDO, feels the same way. "A new BUSHIDO will be born on May 22. It pains me to say it but I prefer to watch the heavyweights fight. However, there are more light-middleweight Japanese fighters. If there aren't Japanese fighters, the fights won't be as interesting (to Japanese fans). The light-middleweight division in Japan is stacked and has a lot of potential. There is no way to exceed the heavyweight class' excitement except becoming more aware of your role as a professional. In addition to the fighters here today, we will also have Mach and Minowa, so I want everyone to give it their all.
What I've felt from the BUSHIDOs before is that it's not easy for Japanese fighters to win in BUSHIDO. You can't win if you fight half-assed. For those fighters that want to be in BUSHIDO, it's tougher than you think. If you don't feel that you want to be at the top, pulling BUSHIDO along, the world is not going to accept you. We will do our best too, so we expect great fights from you."
The staff will provide the stage so it's up to the fighters to prove that they can show good fights. They must be able to make fans want to come back again and for the fans that haven't been before, they must make them want to go see what the excitement is about.
The potential is great. The light-middleweight division is full of talented fighters, both in and out of Japan. There must be someone in there that can stand out like Sakuraba and Silva in the middleweight division and Mirko and Nogueira in the heavyweight division. This is also a division where Japanese fighters can be on equal ground with their foreign counterparts. The BUSHIDO Grand Prix scheduled this fall may see the birth of the first Japanese PRIDE Grand Prix Champion.
The fights haven't been put together yet but I heard a rumor that there would be a tournament this fall. When I heard who would be in it, I knew it would be a tournament with the best in the world. I want to be in it and I will win. My sights will improve my conditioning and set my sights on the tournament for the coming half-year.
There have been a lot of events lately, even on TV, and (MMA) has become a popular topic. There are a lot of guys there just for entertainment value. I don't want people to think that they are what martial arts are about, so I will show everyone what are real martial arts. I've been asking for stronger guys for a long time. Now, it's funny because there are guys who declare they are stronger just because they are foreigners. I'll destroy them all. There'll be someone like that on May 22nd. I'll take him down and move on to the next.
I'm happy that I've been given a chance at the light-middleweight division, along with the world's most famous fighters in PRIDE. I will make sure that my fight doesn't lack in quality when compared to the light-middleweight divisions of other organizations. From the first match to the main event, our fights on May 22nd will keep everyone excited. I want everyone to have a great time as all the fights are finished by either submission or KO.
I want to fight in PRIDE but I don't know when it will be yet. There's no place but the PRIDE ring to take on the strongest guys. That's what I plan on doing and what I will be training for.
I didn't do well in my last fight and it really bothers me. I want to work hard and come back to fight here.
I still haven't shown my good qualities in BUSHIDO, so if I get a chance, I guarantee you I will give a great fight and destroy my opponents with submissions.
I've been around 86, 87 kg until now, which is neither light nor middleweight. I can show more skill and power if I drop to 83kg so, from now on, I'm going to fight at 83kg. I'm upset that the Japanese fighters weren't able to win in the last BUSHIDO. Next time, I'm going to go in as a professional and win.
I wasn't able to beat Acacio but it was fun fighting him. I'm going to train hard and, hopefully, be able to fight him again.
I haven't decided if I'm going to fight at 83kg or 73kg but I'm in good shape in both mind and body this year. I'm aiming to be the world's best fighter in the world's best ring.
I got a taste of what the top-level is like in the last BUSHIDO, and I've still got a long way to go. I'm sorry that I had a slow fight. I will bring myself up a level so I can take on the best in the world.
I don't know when I'm officially going to fight either but I want to fight this year. I don't intend on just being happy to fight. I'll be aiming for the top from the very beginning. I heard a rumor that there will be a 73kg tournament. I plan on competing in it and I plan on winning it.
Hayato "Mach" Sakurai (Currently training overseas. Commented by telephone.)
I've been training with Matt Hume in Seattle since January of this year. It's difficult because we can't understand what each other says but that is making me stronger technically and mentally. I've fought 3 fights in BUSHIDO at 83kg. However, I'm going to take on the world again after returning to my original under 80kg weight. BUSHIDO is going to be reborn from the next event and I also plan on fighting as if I have also been reborn. Of course, I'm thinking of nothing but winning the BUSHIDO tournament planned for this year. Please look forward to it.
Ikuhisa Minowa (Currently training overseas. Commented by telephone.)
I felt the theme for my last fight, "spring wind", when I won in BUSHIDO on April 3rd. I think I proved that a weight difference doesn't matter to a real pro-wrestler. I'll return after I become an even better real pro-wrestler.