Report by Monty DiPietro / Photos by Scott Petersen

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– Dreams do

come true. Thousands of fans on Saturday will pack the Saitama Super Arena and
millions more will watch on television across Japan as many of the world’s best
mixed martial arts fighters meet in Fight Entertainment Group’s DREAM.1
Lightweight Grand Prix 2008 first round.


The card
features seven qualification bouts in the DREAM Lightweight (70 kg/154 lbs)
class, along with a trio of Superfights. This is the inaugural DREAM
production, but such is the talent that it is already being hailed as one of
the world’s finest mixed martial arts tournaments. On the eve of the event, the
20 participating fighters gathered at Tokyo’s Hotel East 21 to share their
thoughts with local and international media.


evening’s Main Event is a tournament matchup that will feature last year’s
Hero’s middleweight champion, Gesias “J.Z.” Calvancante of Brazil, and Japanese
judoka Shinya Aoki. Widely regarded as the man to beat in the DREAM Lightweight
class, Calvancante was his usual confident self at the pre-fight press


back and glad to be here in this tournament, which I think will be one of the
best in the world,” he said emphatically. “I’m happy to fight Aoki, and I want
to show how to make a dream come true."


honored to be here and I believe this fight will exceed all expectations,”
responded Aoki. “Whatever defense J.Z. uses, I am confident I can finish him.”


Perhaps the
most widely anticipated bout on the card features Croatian mixed martial arts
superstar Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic; who will take on Japanese fighter Tatsuya


has been a while since I fought in Saitama, I think they are the best audience
in the world,” proclaimed Filipovic. “I admire the attitude and courage of my
opponent, who accepted this challenge on short notice. I watched some of his
fight videos last night, and I’m sure he will do his best to put on a great


Mizuno was
straight to the point, saying, “I will give 120%, I will do more than my


In other
single-bout match-ups, it will be Hayato "Mach" Sakurai of Japan
facing compatriot Hidetaka Monma, and Ikuhisa Minowa of Japan against Kwan Bun
Lee of South Korea.


Apart from
Calvancante vs. Aoki, there will be six other tournaments bouts, with winners
advancing toward his year’s DREAM Lightweight Championship.


The first
will see the aggressive Norwegian Shooto fighter Joachim Hansen stepping in
against Japanese striker Koutetsu Boku.


very excited to be a part of this,” said Hansen. “I trained hard and will do a
good fight for everybody."


stated, “Tomorrow I will give 100%."


Next up, Kazuyuki
Miyata of Japan will take on the agile and quick Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter
Luiz “Buscape” Firmino, who stated, “I trained hard, DREAM will be one of the
best shows in the world and I want to be the champion."


responded, “I will show what I can do in the ring.”


Katsuhiko Nagata of Japan, a silver medalist at the Sydney Olympics, will be
going for gold here against Artur Oumakhanov, a tough customer who is also a
member of the Russian Special Forces.


“It is
about survival, I know Artur is skilled but I will be more aggressive,” said


this fight,” stated Oumakhanov, “I will make a great show!"


fighter Mitsuhiro Ishida is regarded by many as one of the favorites in the DREAM
Lightweight Grand Prix. He will face Korean judoka Bu Kyung Jung, who made his
mixed martial arts debut last year.


Ishida, "I will make sure we have a heated contest."


trained hard and I intend to put on a good fight," responded Jung.


“Dida” Amade of Brazil is an elite fighter. Challenging him tomorrow will be
formidable American striker Eddie Alvarez.


feel like a family member here in Japan, and I want to prove I deserve to be
here by doing a knockout,” said Dida. “I want to stay on my feet and get the


always, I promise the fans a high-paced, violent and very aggressive fight,”
stated Alvarez.


Japanese fighter Tatsuya Kawajiri will meet the dynamic Kultar “Black Mamba”
Gill of India.


is a very important day for MMA in Japan,” said Kawajiri. “It is a new
beginning and a writing of history, so I want to have a great result at this
great time."


this weight class, this is one of the best tournaments in the world,” Gill said
in return. “I will make an exciting fight; all my fights are exciting. I will
win on the ground, win standing and win wrestling."


The seven
victorious tournament bout fighters will re-converge in Saitama in May for the
right to fight for the first-ever DREAM championship belt at the DREAM
Lightweight Grand Prix Final this July in Osaka.


Lightweight Grand Prix 2008 first round starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 15
at the Saitama Super Arena. It will be broadcast live in Japan on the TBS
national network.