by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
It’s safe to say that 2006 was probably a year that Pride lightweight standout Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen would like to forget.
After starting out the year no contesting Tatsuya Kawajiri in Shooto due to an accidental groin kick, things started to look up as Hansen had an impressive win over Chute Boxe fighter Luiz Azeredo in his first PRIDE fight of the year, but then things went awry.
After spending much of the remainder of the year on the shelf due to a contractual issue, Hansen then returned at Shockwave 2006 to face not the man he had wanted to fight, PRIDE Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi, but instead the less heralded Shinya Aoki, and lost via a rare submission just two minutes into the bout.
Needless to say that when the clock struck midnight later in the evening, ushering in a new year, Joachim was ready for a change, and now at PRIDE: The Second Coming on February 24th in Las Vegas, he will have his opportunity for rebirth and redemption.
“I’ve been training hard,” said Hansen of what he’s been up to since his upset loss to Aoki. “I’ve been focusing on what I did wrong last time. I feel in good shape [and have been] staying healthy.”
The #7 Lightweight in the MMAWeekly Rankings further commented with a chuckle, “I hope I don’t get caught in a gogoplata ever again. So I’ve been working on my ground game.”
While he is able to make light of what happened to him at Shockwave 2006, Hansen is focused on returning to the top of the lightweight division, starting with his match on Saturday against American Jason Ireland.
“I don’t know what to expect from my opponent, because I don’t know anything about him,” admitted Joachim of Ireland. “All I have is rumors I’ve heard; like that he’s a very tough guy. I’ll take it from there, even if I don’t get any more information; I expect it to be a tough fight.”
“I’m ready for whatever. I have to control the fight and find out about him in the fight. I’m not stressed about anything; I’ll try to read him during the fight,” continued Hansen.
After being one of the most buzzed about fighters for years and having initial success in PRIDE, Joachim’s disappointing 2006 led to the question of whether or not he feels pressure to regain what he had lost after such a rough campaign last year.
“Nah, I don’t feel any pressure,” replied Hansen calmly. “Of course, I hope to have a good fight for myself, the audience and PRIDE. I’ll do the best that I can to make sure that’s going to happen.”
Joachim’s fight in Las Vegas marks the first time the Scandinavian has stepped onto American soil for a fight since late 2004 for the MFC promotion, his only other appearance in the US. Returning to the States to fight is something that Hansen has been anticipating for some time.
“I think it’s going to be totally different from Japan,” Joachim. “I’ve never been to Las Vegas, but I like to go to new places and meet new people, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Hansen added, “I hope to put on a good fight in front of all the American fans. I really don’t know what to expect from a big American crowd, but I hope everything goes well and that I, and they, enjoy the fight.”
One thing’s for sure however, the warm, sunny climate of Las Vegas will be a much welcomed change from inclement weather of Joachim’s native Norway.
“It’s always business, it’s not a vacation,” commented Hansen. “I’m going over there to do a job. It never feels like a vacation when I go to a fight, but I need it [a change of scenery] now. It’s cold and dark here, so it will be nice.”
“I’m not going to gamble though. I’m maybe going to walk around a little and go to the pool and look at the girls,” continued Joachim with a laugh.
Should all go well against Jason Ireland this Saturday, Hansen appears to be headed towards this year’s Lightweight Grand Prix, and possibly then a match-up with the fighter he’s been after for the last two years.
“The main goal is to win this fight I’m going to now and of course get into the Grand Prix, that’s important,” exclaimed Hansen. “Of course you never know what’s going to happen, so I’m focused on this fight now.”
Joachim added, “I want to fight Gomi and I think the Japanese audience wants to see that happen. All I can do is, do my best to beat my opponents and get to Gomi. I really want to fight him and the best thing that can happen is if I meet him in the Finals of the Grand Prix.”
With last year behind him and his focus affixed firmly on his task at hand, Hansen, currently ranked #7 in the MMAWeekly.com top ten, hopes to make 2007 the year he once again stands atop the lightweight division and he urges everyone to check out PRIDE: The Second Coming in Las Vegas or on PPV on Saturday, February 24th.
“I’m hoping to have a good fight and I want to put on a good show for the American audience,” concluded Joachim. “I’d like to thank my sparring partners, trainers and the Ølmuf Boxing Academy; they’re the oldest boxing gym in Norway and have been helping me out, so I want to thank everyone there. I want to also thank my brother for helping me out and my friends.”