Sanae Kikuta Interview -part 3-

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 three 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: You said that you'd like to fight Paulo Filho at 83kg.
Sanae Kikuta: Even if I don't fight anyone else, I would at least like to fight Filho this year. There are a lot of ways to fight but recently, it seems like I, a grappler, am always fighting strikers. I chase and they run. I want to have a straight-up fight. I really felt that way I was fighting Lenogue. I'm going to cut weight anyway and when I think about "grapplers" in PRIDE now, I think about Paulo Filho.
Denis (Kang) is a good grappler, too, but he's a smart, total fighter, so I think a fight between us would end up like the rest of my previous (PRIDE) fights. He would try to stuff my tackles and fight back with strikes. There may be a time for us to do that in the future but I want to fight a strong grappler. I want to be able use all of my abilities so that I will be satisfied in the end, whether I win or lose. I feel strongly about that. I don't know how long I can keep fighting, after all. I think I can only have that kind of fight against Filho. That's what I thought when I was watching him beat Misaki.
For some reason, I feel confident that Filho and I would have a good fight. I really want to fight him. So, I'm concentrating on Paulo Filho in 2007.
Pride: You're an ADCC Champion. From your point of view, is Filho a high-level grappler?
Kikuta: Has Filho competed in Abu Dhabi? I think he is the textbook kind of grappler that would win his way to the top in Abu Dhabi. You know, his style of grappling. It's not an even that just anyone can enter and win. Even Nogueira has lost there. I think Filho would be in the top-class if he entered Abu Dhabi.
Pride: Please tell use your thoughts on (Akihiro) Gono and (Kazuo) Misaki's recent success.
Kikuta: Fighting through to the semi-finals was a very difficult thing to do in that tournament, so I'm glad they were able to do so. They both have their own unique characteristics and I think they were able to bring them out well. For example, the way that Gono uses time as a strategy to win. And nobody goes after Dan Henderson like Misaki did. I think even Henderson was surprised at how little Misaki cared if he got hit or not. I think they both brought out their strong points. The real challenge for both of them will be from now, though. When they fight this year, everyone will already understand their fighting styles. They will have to change their training and I think everyone will be studying them.
Pride: Were you moved by Misaki's comeback to win the (PRIDE 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix) Championship?
Kikuta: He lost the first match, so there was no time to be emotional when he climbed back in the ring for the Championship Round. It was decided so quickly. Actually, Denis has this aura that made him look like he was going to lose the second the Championship Round began. And, Misaki had a winning aura. Misaki went out and won that fight with his own abilities, so there so really no time for emotion. Life is interesting. In that situation, I think Misaki had to win and that's exactly what he did.
Pride: Do you have any backstage stories?
Kikuta: Misaki was is shock from the way he lost to Filho in the semi-finals. He was ready to give up. He became very motivated when we found out that one of the losers was going to be able to return to the tournament. Until then he had just been lying down, talking about how much his body hurts, but then he really started to sparkle. (laughing) He could have been thinking that another fighter had lost too and whether he would be the one to return, or about how his opponent would be Denis Kang, but he wasn't. He was excited and you could see how much he wanted to win on his face. I don't know what Denis was feeling on his side but he might have been surprised to hear that he wouldn't be fighting Filho. He was also injured apparently, so the atmosphere (surrounding the fight) might have turned bad for him. In life, there are no guarantees about the future, particularly when you're talking about winning and losing.
Pride: So, Misaki was lying down in the changing room before he was called back?
Kikuta: He was lying there, unable to move. Gono was his normal, energetic self. I guess he was behaving himself because he was upset over losing. Gono didn't have any injuries at all, so the condition of the two (fighters) was contrasting.

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