by MMAWeekly.com Staff
LAS VEGAS, August 11, 2005 — The fighters who will do battle at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Las Vegas II met the media today at the Mirage Hotel’s Bermuda Ballroom.

Hosted by K-1 USA’s Scott Coker and MGM Mirage Sports Events Director Bob Halloran, the press conference was an opportunity for the fighters to share their thoughts in advance of this Saturday’s 14-bout event.

The K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Las Vegas II will see combatants from eight countries. It will feature a couple of Superfights and an eight-man elimination tournament including fighters who showed superior ability in K-1 this year, the tournament winner advancing to the K-1 World GP Final Elimination in Osaka this September.

In the single-elimination tournament (all fights K-1 Rules / 3 Min. 3R Ext. 1R):

Canadian fighter Michael McDonald will take on Azem Maksutaj of Switzerland in the first of the bouts. McDonald is a three-time K-1 Tournament Champion, and the Mirage Sports Book had him as the favorite to win the tournament at 6/5. This promises to be a tough bout, as McDonald’s opponent Maksutaj ranked second on the odds board at 5/2.

McDonald: “I know Azem is a skilled and tough fighter, I have tweaked my training and my diet and I look forward to Saturday night. I am the favorite, but there is no pressure, I’m coming to work and when the bell goes it’s just me and my opponent. I look forward to a spectacular fight — I’m planning to shine!”

Maksutaj: “I have fought for 15 years now, and I’m sure it will be a knockout — either him or me. Michael is a very good boxer and kicker, we had a tough Superfight in Sweden this May [McDonald won by extra-round decision], and so this will be a good rematch.”

Flashy Frenchman Freddy Kemayo will meet Ruslan Karaev of Russia in the second bout. Just 23 years of age, Kemayo’s technical yet highly aggressive style earned him a solid third-place finish at the World GP in Paris this May, and so this also promises to be a spirited contest.

Kemayo: “I’m excited to be in Las Vegas, I know my opponent is a stylish fighter, and I wish good luck to myself!”

Karaev: “I have studied Freddy, watched the tapes from Paris this year, and he is good — but on Saturday the ring will show who is better.”

Another 23 year-old, Hiraku Hori of Japan, will step in against German fighter Chalid “Die Faust” Arrab in the third quarterfinal. Die Faust fights out of the prestigious Golden Glory Gym in Holland. home to elite fighters such as Stephan Leko and Semmy Schilt. Vegas betters like the German, as the odds on Die Faust went from 18/1 to 3/1 today. Hori, meanwhile, is young and improving quickly, and will bring a 20cm (8″) height advantage to the ring.

Hori: “I will do everything I can to win and become the K-1 Las Vegas champion!”

Die Faust: “I’m ready, my training is always the same — work hard. I feel good and I am confident of victory.”

Japanese fighter Tatsufumi Tomihira earned his spot in the tournament by placing second in the Japan GP this May. He will meet Scott Lighty of the United States in the last of the quarterfinals. There was also a good amount of action on the scrappy Tomihira — the opening line was 18/1 at the Mirage Sports Book, but this improved to 8/1 by press conference time.

Tomihira: “In Japan they say I’m a bad boy, they call me ‘Mr Yellow Card’, but I’m hoping for a clean fight here in Las Vegas.”

Lighty: “I am ready to go, I’m thinking KO, KO, KO!”

In Super Fights (also K-1 Rules / 3 Min. 3R Ext. 1R):

American slugger and Battle at the Bellagio 2004 Champion Mighty Mo will take on Francois “The White Buffalo” Botha of South Africa. These are a couple of guys who like to use their fists, and both are already qualified for this year’s World GP Final Elimination at Osaka.

Mo: “Beating [Defending K-1 WGP Champion] Remy Bonjasky this year has brought my confidence back up. I guess while fighting Francois I won’t take any more kicks to the head, because I don’t think he can reach that high! I want to tell him to be ready for the bomb ‘cos I’m bringing it on!”

Botha: “I have been with guys who can throw bombs, and with guys who can throw the whole cannon too! But I am getting better and better in K-1, so Saturday we’re going to have a great fight!”

A second Superfight will pit dynamic American fighter Duane “Bang Bang” Ludwig against French Muay Thai fighter Remy Bonnel.

The tournament Reserve Fight will involve a couple of very big guys, as heavyweight boxer Imani Lee of the United States makes his K-1 debut against veteran Jan “The Giant” Nortje of South Africa.

Lee: “Jan is a big strong guy, but I’m big too, and I’m fast. I’m not saying I’m the greatest, but I’m the latest, and I will show that on Saturday. I have trained to prepare for the kicks, but I can throw them too!”

Nortje: “Imani is a boxer and so am I, so you’ll basically see a boxing match Saturday, but I can throw some kicks too, so we’ll see how he handles that. They say Vegas is the city of dreams but they also make nightmares here — that’s what I hope to bring my opponent on Saturday.”

The K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Las Vegas II kicks of at 5:00 pm on Saturday August 13 and will air in Japan on the Fuji TV network. For delayed broadcast in other regions check with your local providers. The matchups and complete post-event coverage can be found on the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp)