by Korey Howard for MMAWeekly.com
Following the first round of the Pride Bushido Grand Prix in Saitama, Japan, Dream Stage Entertainment (DSE) president Nobuyuki Sakakibara spoke with members of the press.
First, concerning the opening round tournament fights and the non-tournament lightweight fights that took place on June 4th, he pointed out that more Japanese fighters won their matches than in any of the past Bushido events. In all, six of seven Japanese fighters won their matches. Sakakibara said, “I thought the Japanese fighters were going to have a tough time tonight, but you could tell they had prepared well. They came in with good gameplans and fought clever fights.”
Concerning the one Japanese fighter who lost his fight, Makoto Takimoto of the Yoshida Dojo, Sakakibara reported that Takimoto had been taken to the hospital for tests on the right eye injury that caused his fight to be stopped. Takimoto didn’t show up for an interview after his fight because, in Sakakibara’s words, “The ring doctor said his situation is very serious, and that he would be in danger if we didn’t get him immediate medical attention.”
As for the night’s most outstanding fighter, Sakakibara picked Denis Kang of the American Top Team. Going into the first round, Kang was Sakakibara’s odds on favorite for winning the entire tournament, and his 15-second knockout of Murilo “Ninja” Rua confirmed that pick for the DSE president. “He fought a very impressive fight, and he outshined all the other welterweights by a longshot,” Sakakibara said.
When asked about any potential match-ups that he would like to see in the second round of the 183-pound tournament, Sakakibara stated, “Personally, I think the three biggest names are Dan [Henderson], [Denis] Kang, and [Paulo] Filho. The match-ups I’d like to see the most are Kang vs. Dan, or Kang vs. Filho, but just as in the open weight tournament, we will leave that up to the fans to decide.”
Finally, another item of great interest coming out of the Pride Bushido event was Marcus Aurelio’s unexpected loss to Japanese fighter Mitsuhiro Ishida. Concerning this fight and its ramifications on the Pride Lightweight Title situation, Sakakibara had this to say: “If Marcus had come out and subbed Ishida without any problem, he would have gotten a rematch for the title, but tonight’s result puts a question mark over an Aurelio-Gomi rematch. We were planning to have Gomi defend his belt in August or November, but now I think we’ll decide who the challenger will be at the August event and have a title match in November.”
There is a lot of time between now and the second round of the 183-pound tournament, which is scheduled to be held on August 26, and a lot can happen in a couple of months. MMAWeekly will keep you posted on match-ups for the next round of the tournament, as well as other Pride-related developments.