Sanae Kikuta interview -part 1-

The leader of the GRABAKA GYM, Sanae Kikuta, fought on November 5th, 2006 at PRIDE BUSHIDO 13, his first PRIDE fight since his December 31, 2005 bout against Makoto Takimoto. In part one of this interview series Kikuta speaks freely, as the leader of GRABAKA and as a fighter, about his fight against Jean Francois Lenogue, issues with PRIDE, goals for 2006 and backstage stories about GRABAKA fighter Kazuo Misaki's miraculous comeback




Pride Fighting Championships: After a long time away, you climbed into the PRIDE ring at the November 5th PRIDE BUSHIDO 13 last year. [Note: Kikuta won over Jean Francois Lenogue. You even dropped down to the Welterweight Division.
Sanae Kikuta: I was contracted at 85kg and I didn't know if I would be able to drop the weight until right before the fight. I cut weight back in my judo days but at that time, all I had to do was stop eating to lose weight. Judo matches are four minutes so when that four minutes are over, I would take a break, drink something and then compete for four minutes again. Fighting one ten-minute round and two five-minute rounds is completely different.
Pride: Did the weight loss go well?
Kikuta: I thought I would do it differently than I did back then by making sure I get my nutrients while cutting weight, but the weight didn't come off like I hoped. I was 5kg above my contracted weight three weeks before the fight. I couldn't find my rhythm and in the end, I had to lose 3kg on the day before the fight. I did exactly what I didn't want to do the most. I hadn't eaten for days at that point, so I was panicking. (After the weigh-ins on the day before the event) I knew that I had to eat something by lunch or I wouldn't be able to move in my fight on the next day. When I ate, though, my stomach started to feel bad. In the end, I felt weird up until the fight. The first time is hard.
Pride: Did you gain the weight back?
Kikuta: I weight more than 90kg now. This is my normal weight.
Pride: Will you continue to fight as a Welterweight (-83kg)?
Kikuta: Well, if I knew about my fights two months in advance, I'm confident that I could lose the weight little-by-little. In the end, I lost 6kg in three weeks for this last fight. Next time I would have to lose another 2kg but if I have two months, I'll be fine.
Pride: So you weren't used to it because it was your first time (to lose so much weight)?
Kikuta: It was harder than I had imagined.
Pride: Did that have any effect on your fight?
Kikuta: A fight is a gamble, even without cutting weight. You fight yourself heavy and slow once you've actually climbed into the ring. It doesn't feel like that in training but fights are special. After I took him down and failed (at a leg-lock attempt from the bottom), it was all I could do to keep fighting. That's the way I felt for about the first three minutes. After that I got him in a knee-bar. I think the knee-bar was on well but I was using all the strength I had just to hold on. My body wouldn't move. So, I wasn't able to really apply any strength in the last half of the fight and in the end, it was all I could do to just hold him down.
I took several hits in the last half but they didn't hurt me at all. Even when I reviewed the fight on tape, I could tell that none of the punches landed cleanly. Normally, when your opponent charges towards you, you go for a tackle. Lenogue's legs and arms are long, though, right? So, if you get close enough to even shoot for a tackle, you're already within his punching range. Considering my stamina at the time, I knew that if the tackle failed, there was no way I would be able to recover. I don't think I would have been able to even stand up. So I pulled him in as far as I could and then went for the tackle.
I think I was relaxed after that but I was so tired, I don't remember much of the fight after that point. When you have a tough fight, you might think back on it as being tough the next time that you fight. My fight with Lenogue, however, was so tough that I just don't remember much of it. So, it doesn't even feel like a fight and I can't remember anything to work on for the next fight. I don't remember most of the last half of the fight.

(This interview was taken on November 26, 2006.)