by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
At Pride’s Shockwave 2005 event one of the most interesting match-ups on the card pits current Light-Heavyweight King of Pancrase Yuki Kondo against Kazuhiro Nakamura of the Yoshida Dojo. This match very well represents the long-established veteran generation against the rising young next generation of Japanese fighters.
This will be Kondo’s third straight appearance at a Shockwave event since making his Pride debut defeating Mario Sperry at Shockwave 2003. With the ever-growing talent base in the Pride middleweight division, Kondo must perform well against Nakamura if he hopes to once again get in contention for the middleweight title.
Recently Yuki took time out of his very busy training schedule for MMA Weekly to discuss his year, the upcoming fight, and his goals for 2006 both inside and outside the ring.
MMA Weekly: First off Yuki, you had a recent draw in a catch wrestling rules match at the Pancrase December 4th show. For our readers who might not understand the rules, can you explain the catch wrestling and tell us about the match itself?
Yuki Kondo: Pancrase catch wrestling is kind of submission wrestling with no strikes similar to Abu Dhabi style utilizing submission holds, chokes, takedowns and throws. We do not wear gloves or shin pads. Match time limit is either one or two rounds of five minutes each. I took this no strikes fight with Takumi Yano as I wanted to try anything new. Yano has superb groundwork and his submission techniques are solid. It was not a problem for me to compete in a no strikes fight. Rather it was hard for me to take advantageous position and to control him the whole time.
MMA Weekly: Along with the catch wrestling match earlier this month you have to prepare right away for New Year’s Eve against Kazuhiro Nakamura. What was it like having to prepare for two fights just a few weeks apart?
Yuki Kondo: I’ve been doing intensive training since I started to prepare for the Pancrase fight with Yano on December 4th. The catch wrestling is done and now I am focusing on the coming Pride fight. Taking two fights a month will not be a problem for me. Everyday I care about being in good condition physically and mentally. Moderate tension will make me sharpen up.
MMA Weekly: Speaking of your upcoming match with Nakamura, can you tell us your thoughts on this bout and how you will fight against a Judo stylist such as Kazuhiro?
Yuki Kondo: Nakamura is a well-rounded fighter and he has been doing well in his past Pride fights. It is an honor for me to face such a tough opponent. I do not have any particular strategy in my head and I see no problem in dealing with a Judo stylist.
MMA Weekly: Also appearing on Shockwave 2005 will be your former Pancrase rival Sanae Kikuta from Grabaka (whom Kondo beat for the KOP title in 2003). If he wins do you see the two of you having a third bout, this time in Pride?
Yuki Kondo: I have no sense of rivalry for Kikuta. He is just an opponent and I am fine if we are to fight even 100 times.
MMA Weekly: Next year you will be entering your 10th year of competition. What differences or similarities do you see in yourself now compared to when you first entered into the sport?
Yuki Kondo: Now I feel my training is not a tough thing but fun. Some people said to me that my techniques, fighting style, and looks have better matured in the last ten years, but I do not know exactly about any changes in myself. I might have mellowed with age.
MMA Weekly: You have become the most popular fighter in Pancrase and are often seen as the face of the company. Does it ever surprise you to see where you are and how popular and important you’ve become to Pancrase?
Yuki Kondo: It is a great honor that people give me such high evaluation for several years. I should be a better known fighter not only in Japan but all over the world.
MMA Weekly: Looking back over 2005 so far, how would you compare this year to previous years in the sport and are how do you feel about your performances this year so far?
Yuki Kondo: Certainly I have totally improved by myself this year. I want to show what part I have improved through my fights.
MMA Weekly: Entering into 2006 what kind of goals do you have set for yourself inside and outside the ring?
Yuki Kondo: I want to win in all of my fights. You should not miss my exciting and impressive fights. Beside fights, I want to spare much time to enjoy surfing. I will practice harder to improve my surfing skills. Some day soon you will see what an amazing surfer I am!
MMA Weekly: Where would you like to see our sport next year?
Yuki Kondo: I expect that MMA will be widely recognized as a major sport among many more people in every area.
MMA Weekly: Thank you very much for your time Yuki, as always it’s a pleasure and an honor. Is there anything you’d like to say to the fans to close out this interview?
Yuki Kondo: I deeply thank you for your continued support. I will do my best to defeat Nakamura. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!