DREAM 18 / GLORY 4 pre-fight interviews were held on December 29th, 2012. The parade of athletes through the media room for the New Years Eve mega-event started at 9:30am and didn’t finish until after 7:00pm. It was a day to observe the fighters on their last day of weight cut, and ask them a few questions about their bouts, and get their last-moment thoughts. The GLORY kickboxers all appeared strong and eager, ready to take on the new 16-man single night Heavyweight Grand Slam Challenge and the new 2 x 2, best of 3 rules. The general consensus was that every single fight with be a high-intensity, action-packed battle to progress on to the final round.
The DREAM MMA fighters were a mixed lot, with the weight cut noticeably harder on some more than others. Many of the fighters are veterans of the New Years Eve event, and most expressed their pleasure at having the tradition continue under the GLORY organization.
DREAM 18 Fighters
Shinya Aoki was even more hoarse than normal as he explained that he chose to stay in Japan to train for the fight rather than go to Evolve because the fight is in Japan. Aoki said this was his seventh New Years Eve fight, “This is my life now.” When asked if he had any thoughts about meeting Antonio McKee in a match that was originally scrapped for DREAM 17, he said, “No, I don’t go into the ring with any emotion. I don’t feel any different for this fight.”
Tatsuya Kawajiri looked drawn and exhausted. Dropping to a lower class looks difficult for him even though he says its not, “The Featherweight division is really a top class.” However his manner of speaking was forceful and his carefully chosen words very poignant. Kawajiri said that having the opportunity to fight on the New Years card was huge for him, and that he wouldn’t take it for granted. When asked about the importance of his match with Michihiro Omigawa, he stated, “It will make a big difference if I or Omigawa win. It will have a big impact on Japanese MMA in 2013. So I have to work my technique, “katane and kawachan muso”. I’ll fight really hard.”
Bibiano Fernandes looked well-adjusted to the time and the weight cut, as usual. He said that he loves to fight in Japan, and was excited to be selected again. He was very friendly and promised an exciting match.
Hiroyuki Takaya was calm and cool, ever the karateka, and spoke about a year layoff in fights that was punctuated with a summer training trip in the US. When asked about his plans for 2013, he stated that he just wants to fight regularly.
Satoru Kitaoka looked very jovial, in fact even more than his mailing self which belies his weight cut difficulty. The translation wasn’t working for this interview, but whatever he was saying had the Japanese media giggling like schoolgirls.
Hayato Sakurai was very relaxed, and when queried about his layoff and the difficult match ahead of him, responded nonchalantly. “I’m in good condition, now its the gods’ will,” he stated. “I haven’t fought because DREAM hasn’t had fights. I’ve been studying submissions and joints (laughing).” In a more serious tone, he shared, “I’m not really influenced by outside things. I’m not influenced by not having a fight. I want to show a great match that the audience will respect. Phil is one of those fighters who established MMA. I respect him. He’s a fearful fighter and a very good personality. Like Bruce lee said, become water. Water can be air one day and ice the next, like MMA standing or on the ground.”
Melvin Manhoef took the mic with determination. “I’m very happy to be in Japan. I’m on a winning streak now.” When asked how he would handle the fight, he stated gregariously, “I’m going to be Melvin. When he’s in the ring, anybody else in the ring better beware.” Even stronger in his newfound commitment, Melvin went on further to say, “This is what I want, this is what I need, this is what I deserve. I’m going to let people see that my ground game has improved. I’m back!”
Marloes Coenen looked beautiful as ever, and said that she intended to show women are as good as men, and even fiercer. She talked about her recent training in Thailand so that a late notice match wasn’t an issue. “I hope that DREAM will have more women’s MMA matches. I’m relieved that it women’s MMA has happened, and that we have momentum. I’m ready to show it across the world.” Marloes said her match will end in a first round KO.
GLORY 4 Fighters
“Cosplay Kid” Jienotsu wore a lovely frock made especially for him. He demanded to see the current comments on the Niconico webfeed when the live media wasn’t very eager to engage. His entrances are the stuff of legend.
Gohkan Saki said, “I’m excited, I can’t wait until Monday. I feel good about the new system. For me its no problem. I used to fight five rounds of three minutes, two is no problem for me. I don’t know about the other heavyweights though!”
Remy Bojansky also liked the new ruleset. “I think its important to have a high level on the first 2 rounds.” He was asked about a book he wrote and explained, “I wrote a biography about my life in kickboxing from 0 to now. I have to explain the title “Living Like a God in Japan”, it means people were so nice to me here, the fans everyone, they made me feel great.”
Ebata stated he wanted to be the core of his division going forward, and that he would look for a KO in the first round.
Mtsumoto said that he wanted to show that the rare 85kg weight class in Japan can be a very exciting one. He said, “It’s been ten years since K-1 Max here in Tokyo, so I’m excited to be back. I will take my opponent down.”
December 31, 2012
Saitama Super Arena
SHINYA AOKI 31 – 6 – 0 vs ANTONIO MCKEE 28 – 4 – 2
Tatsuya Kawajiri 31 – 7 – 2 vs Michihiro Omigawa 13 – 12 – 1
Bibiano Fernandes 12 – 3 – 0 vs Yoshiro Maeda 30 – 11 – 4
Hiroyuki Takaya 17 – 9 – 1 vs Georgi Karakhanyan 19 – 3 – 1
Satoru Kitaoka 30 – 11 – 9 vs Will Brooks 7 – 0 – 0
Hayato Sakurai 36 – 12 – 2 vs Phil Baroni 15 – 15 – 0
Melvin Manhoef 26 – 9 – 1 vs Denis Kang 35 – 15 – 2