by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
It seems more so now than ever the lightweight division is continuing to develop and infuse talent into the biggest MMA shows around. In particular American lightweights have begun to show their dominance after years of foreign rule.
At Bushido: Survival 2 this upcoming August 26th in Japan, four American lightweights have been added to an already stacked card which includes the second round of Pride’s 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix.
Among the four Americans added to the card are two Pride veterans Chris Brennan, who will be taking on top ranked contender Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Jason Black, who will be making his second appearance for the company going up against Shooto’s Shinya Aoki.
The remaining two slots on the undercard are going to two debuting Pride fighters in veteran Jeff Curran, who is matched up with TKO Champion Hatsu Hioki, and rising young star in the making Gilbert Melendez who is scheduled to face Nobuhiro Obiya.
MMAWeekly caught up with both Jeff Curran and Gilbert Melendez shortly after the official announcement was made by Pride this week.
“I’m totally excited,” said Curran about his opportunity to fight in Pride. “It’s like of like when I fought in the UFC, but now I get time to prepare and will get to show everyone what I’ve got.”
Jeff added, “It’s something I’ve been waiting for, for a long time. It’s great for Pride to take a chance on me and bring me out and I’m hoping I can make a home and some money there [laughs].”
For Curran, this match-up with Hioki not only is an opportunity for him to showcase his skills in Pride, but it also represents an opportunity for him to get a little revenge for a close friend.
“He just beat Mark Hominick in TKO for his title, so I have a personal mission in this fight as well,” explained Jeff. “It’s a chance for me to get some redemption for Mark who I train with and who is a good friend.”
“I saw Mark have opportunities on the ground in their fight, so I should have an edge if I’m able to clinch and take him down,” further commented Curran.
While Jeff has had an opportunity to perform on a PPV situation with the UFC, Gilbert Melendez is getting his first chance to show a large audience what he possesses as one of the division’s top young prospects.
“It’s the most exciting moment of my life,” Melendez told MMAWeekly about signing his Pride contract. “I’ve been working for this forever and it’s a dream come true. Hopefully this will lead to the finishing of my goal [at lightweight] when I get a shot at the belt.”
Gilbert continued, “This is where I want to be, with the best in the world. I’m going to do my best and prove that I belong with them.”
When it comes to Melendez’s opponent, Nobuhiro Obiya, Gilbert is expecting a tough fight, but plans to send a message with his performance.
“I know he’s undefeated and he just beat Miltion Viera and Ryan Bow [for a Deep Championship] and I know he’s one of Takanori Gomi’s teammates so it’s going to be a tough fight,” said Melendez of Obiya. “With this fight I’m going to let Gomi know I’m out there. If he doesn’t know me before the fight he’ll know me after.”
With the addition of four American fighters to the upcoming Bushido card, it could be a sign of things to come as Pride continues to build-up for its debut US show in October and looks to bring in established talent for the show.
Pride Bushido: Survival 2 complete line-up:
Welterweight GP Matches
Dan Henderson (USA) VS Kazuo Misaki (JPN)
Ryo Chonan (JPN) VS Paulo Filho (BRZ)
Gegard Mousasi (FRA) VS Akihiro Gono (JPN)
Denis Kang (USA) VS Amar Suloev (ARM)
Tatsuya Kawajiri (JPN) VS Chris Brennan (USA)
Nobuhiro Obiya (JPN) VS Gilbert Melendez (USA)
Shinya Aoki (JPN) VS Jason Black (USA)
Hatsu Hioki (JPN) VS Jeff Curran (USA)
*Fight Card and Participants Subject to Change