The PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix 2005 will be held on April 23rd in Osaka Dome and all eight matches, with 16 fighters total, have been decided. Dream Stage Entertainment CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara looked satisfied as he explained that PRIDE had brought together the "best of the best from the world's middleweights."

The last piece to fall into place was Ricardo Arona. According to Sakakibara, "Arona was chosen because we received many requests to put him in the GP, including from many fans at BUSHIDO. We are judged by our fans and this is a reflection of that." In fact, more than 700 requests for Arona were received at the official Japanese PRIDE website. The newly announced matches are:



Sakuraba had little comment in response, only "I'll do by best. Please cheer for me." Yoon, on the other hand, was confident of his victory, "It's an honor to fight Sakuraba in the First Round. As the Korean representative, I will definitely win."

"I've known about Sakuraba since about 2 years ago, around when Yoshida joined PRIDE, by watching on the internet and on videos," Yoon continued. "As a judoka, I want to fight wearing my judo gi proudly. However, after watching the Royce Gracie/Sakuraba fight, I see that the gi can be used against you, so I haven't made up my mind whether or not to wear the gi yet." This is most likely a strategical mind-game on Yoon's part because Sakuraba's game-plan will change greatly depending on whether Yoon is wearing a gi or not.

Hearing Yoon declare that his ground work is better, Sakuraba played his usual game and pretended that he "already forgotten" what Yoon said. Sakuraba is no stranger to mind-games, either. The battle has already begun and Yoon is full of confidence while Sakuraba is playing it cool.

This PRIDE event will be broadcast live in Korea. (All PRIDE events are broadcast live in Korea starting this year.) Yoon held a press conference in Korea on the 7th and has already looks to become the center of attention in his motherland.

Kazushi Sakuraba's Comments

I haven't seen Yoon's matches yet but I will watch them soon. They are all judo matches but they will be useful. (The list of Japanese judoka he has beaten) isn't really relevant. I'm different from them and this isn't judo. I don't care. I'll do as I always do when I'm fighting someone for the first time.

I'm not going to wrap myself in the Japanese flag as a costume and I didn't compete at an All-Japan tournament to get here so I don't really care (about Japan vs. Korea). Anyway, he probably hasn't even checked to see if I really am Japanese, has he? He's probably mistaken. I live in Japan but in reality, I'm from outer space. (laughing)

I've got a new technique. It's called the "mugyu". I've been using it for a long time but it was difficult to work in. Recently I figured out how to work it in so I hope I can use it in our fight. What kind of technique? You'll have to imagine it for yourself. It's not striking. I hope I can use a chicken-wing lock. I'm always trying for them but arm-locks and chokes are quicker. (laughing) Well, if I see a place to use it, I will.

I'll decide whether to fight on the ground or standing up after the fight begins. I don't care whether he wears a gi or not. There are both benefits and drawbacks for him if he wears the gi. It doesn't bother me.

He's not going to be an easy opponent. I wish I had gotten an easier opponent. When I said "please give me an easy opponent" to Mr. Takada, he said, "what the hell are you talking about? There's nobody easy on this card!" (laughing) It's our first match-up and he's not easy. I think he's going to be tough.

(Asked about making it to the Second Round) I hate all of them. I've been in good condition lately so I will submit all of them... .Wait, I'm supposed to talk trash, right? (laughing)

Yoon Dong Sik

Sakuraba is famous so I think I'll be in a good position if I beat him. I'm a little nervous because this will be my first fight in PRIDE. However, I've been in over 50 international judo competitions. I may be nervous when I make my entrance but I'll be fine once I get in the ring.

I haven't seen all of his fights but from what I have seen, I think he has good ground technique. I didn't see any big weak points. If I put the most highly-skilled ground-fighting judoka as a 10th degree black belt, Sakuraba would probably be a 7th or 8th degree. But, I'm a 9th or 10th degree.

Today is the first time that I've met him and he seems like a really nice guy. Actually, he seems so nice that you'd never guess he's a fighter.

A lot of people tell me that I'm at a disadvantage because this is my debut fight and there will be striking. However, I disagree. Knocking someone down with strikes and them finishing them with a joint-lock or choke is not that much different from judo. Yoshida has done well so I don't think my way of thinking is very far off.

Nobuyuki Sakakibara's Comments

All 8 fights have a theme. All 16 fighters are fitting to be in a middleweight tournament to decide who is the best of the best. Yoshida and Silva will probably be the main event, while Sakuraba and Yoon will probably be either the semi-final match or right after the break.

We had originally removed Arona from the list because he was supposed to compete in Abu Dhabi in May. However, he came in March and asked to be in the Grand Prix and we put him on the list.

Vitor will come to Japan along with Dana White from the UFC. We will cooperate with the UFC when they come to Japan and I think that fighters will begin to flow back-and-forth between PRIDE and UFC.

Yoon is going to return to Korea and begin training. He's become a hot topic back there and there are many trainers in different fields volunteering to support him. We always have tours coming from Korea (to watch PRIDE) so I think they will come to support him this time, too.