GTR Archives 2000-2020











Global Training Report



Interview with 

Sakuraba Kazushi

SRSDX, No.27, August, 10, 2000

Translated by Kondo Yoko



Sak in one of his early fights, before defeating his first of four Gracies, going for an armlock on Tiger White

Q.       Well, Renzo Gracie was chosen for your opponent in Seibu Dome event on August 27.

Sakuraba: Ha.. Yes.

Q.   I would like to know your resolution on the fight.

Sakuraba: Ha.. Nothing specially.

Q.    Nothing? (laughing)  But Renzo is a Gracie too.  Following Royler and Royce, he will be your third Gracie opponent.

Sakuraba: Even my distant relatives use the name of Sakuraba.  It seems to me that they [Royler and Royce] have the same name of Gracie, but they are distant relatives of Renzo.

Q.       I donft think so (laughing).

Sakuraba: But Renzo has a little different way of fighting and mood from them.  It seems that he follows more in the tradition of his uncle Carlson than Helio.

Q.       Renzo, to be sure, is more of a Carlson type fighter.  Tell me more specific differences in his style.

Sakuraba: Rather than a style, his way of fighting is completely different. He punches and kicks.  It might be more interesting if he were in the U-Inter era.

Q.       U-inter?

Sakuraba: Yes.  Compared to Royler and Royce, he uses strikes effectively and fights more offensively.  Royce was aggressive in the fight with me, but Renzofs attack is different from Roycefs.  He would be better off in the U-Inter era.

Q.       What is a specific difference between the attacking styles of Royce and Renzo?

Sakuraba: Renzo attacks with not only jiu-jutsu and amateur wrestling but also a mix of other kakutogi.  I am looking forward to the fight, because he is one of the fighters whom I have been eager to fight with.  To my knowledge, we are the same weight.  I am satisfied with him as my opponent.

Q.       When asked about a fight with Rickson, you said gI donft want.h  But you never said gI might lose.h  As for a fight with Renzo, however, you used to say ghe is strong among the Gracies and I might loseh.

Sakuraba: Yes, right, because Renzo is an all-round fighter and can do many things.

Q.       You mean he is stronger than Royce.

Sakuraba: Yes.  By comparison based on an attack, I think a fighter who can do anything is stronger.  In this sense, Renzo is stronger than Royce, I think.

Q.       You regard him as the best among the Gracies.

Sakuraba: Yes. He is versatile and doesnft stick to one thing.  He tries to take in a lot of things and turn them into his own.

Q.       You criticize the Gracies for claiming that their way of fighting is best and right.

Sakuraba: Thatfs right. I am very interested in how the last defeat will affect Roycefs fighting next time.  His way of fighting is too old.  Nobody could see anything a long time ago when there was no TV or video.  Pictures were the only source of information, so the Gracies could invent a lot of secret techniques.  But now they canft anymore.  Time is different.  Any information and videos are available for anybody and from anywhere.  From now on, a key to a strong fighter is to have various kinds of strategy.

Q.       So you think other the Gracies should be like Renzo?

Sakuraba:  Yes. It seems Renzo is more a developed form of Gracie rather than Royce and his brothers.  I think other the Gracies will follow Renzo in future.

Q.       I see.  It means Renzo is the newest weapon among the Gracie.  Then you might have a special feeling about the fight.

Sakuraba: No, not really.

Q.       Ha, nothing specially?

Sakuraba: No.

Q.       Wo, why?  If Renzo is stronger than Royce,  you must have some pressure or something.

Sakuraba: Sometimes win and sometimes lose. Nothing to feel about it (laughing).  But it doesnft mean I have a negative feeling about it.  I am controlling my feeling toward victory so long as I stand in the ring.  However, a little defiant idea runs into my mind, that is, I lose when to lose.

Q.       HacThere is a scenario among the fans on the fight between Sakuraba and the Gracies that following your victory against Royler and Royce, a fight of Sakuraba vs. Rickson should be realized as the final war.  It seems in this situation that Renzo, a strong fighter among the Gracies, showed up in a way saying gdefeat me first before Rickson.h

Sakuraba: I donft feel that way.  Basically I consider him apart from the other Gracies (smiling).

Q.       Really!  I want you to defeat Renzo first, and drive Rickson into a corner so that he canft escape from the fight with you.  That is my hope.  For viewers, Renzo is more exciting than Victor Belfort.

Sakuraba: Well, for a fighter there is no difference between Renzo and Victor.

Q.       Hmmc according to your style, you canft have a special feeling about the fight unless you are offered no-time-limit ultimate fight like Royce.

Sakuraba: I donft think it happens.  We will follow the ordinary rule of Pride this time. Renzo is not such a type of man to say that.

Q.       But what if it happens?  I want you to fight with him for 90 min. again (laughing).

Sakuraba: Woc impossible.  How can I do it in such a hot place?

Q.  But I donft want to see a decision by judge after fighting 2 rounds for 10 min. each and 5-minute extension.

Sakuraba: OK, I try my best.

Q.       Yes, try your best.  I want you to go to the end of it.  Youfve never taken a submission in the fights with a Gracie so far.  Renzo might be stronger than Royce, but thatfs what I want to see in your fight with him.

Sakuraba: Yes, thatfs my hope too.

Q.  What is the most impressive fight of Renzo youfve ever watched?

Sakuraba: I donft know, because I seldom watch them.

Q.       He fought with Shoji, Kikuta, Otsuka, and Tamura

Sakuraba: I saw the fight with Tamura in a magazine, but I didnft watch the video.

Q.       But Tamurafs victory must weigh on your mind.

Sakuraba: What?  Nothing at all.  I donft even remember him winning clearly.

Q.       Yes, he won! (laughing)

Sakuraba: But he won under the different rule.

Q.       I told you a little before to take a submission, not to end with a decision by judge.  Tamurafs win, in fact, was a decision by judge in the rule.  It gave rise to hot criticism in our magazine, gTamurafs win is acceptable or not acceptable?h.  I think many fans will compare your fight to his.

Sakuraba: Then I will watch the video.  But they will do any way, even if asked not to do that.

Q.       Right!  So it is very curious for fans to see how Sakuraba is going to fight.

Sakuraba: OK, then I will use a different strategy from what they expect.

Q.       But you kept the defense position throughout the fight with Royce, because he first made a move.  If Renzo is more aggressive, it might happen to you again.

Sakuraba: Yes, I think so.  And one more important thing is how much I can take him into my pattern.  I can cope with any situation as long as he attacks in my pattern, but if not, it will be hard.

Q.       Speaking of Renzo,  his guillotine choke, a technique he used on Tamura or Kikuta, seems to be a little scary.

Sakuraba: He is good at it.  But it is easy to do when your opponent shoots in with a front tackle.  Basically I am not good at a front tackles so I donft do front tackles.  It is OK if you get in with a low one-leg tackle [hikui kata ashi takuru].  It is difficult to hold the neck in that position.

Q.       I see. Are you doing special training since Renzo was chosen for your opponent?

Sakuraba: No, nothing.

Q.       How about any counter-plan?

Sakuraba: Nothing.  Everything is the same as usual.  If I can take him into my pattern or pace, I will.  If not, it will be like a fight with Alan Goes or Guy Mezger.

Q.       Hmmc.

Sakuraba: One more key is who will be caught in a trap.  We will both try to fake each other out.

Q.       This is what you do best, isnft it?  Renzo looks simple.

Sakuraba: But appearances can be deceptive.  He might be far from simple.  We donft know the truth until it starts.

Q.       Is that so?

Sakuraba: I feel there is something in him.  It will make me confused if I see something I was not expecting during the fight.  But there will be no problem if I am prepared for it in advance.  In a fight with a boxer, for example, I will be in a panic if he is good at the ground technique contrary to my expectation.  But if I come up to the fight with the idea that he has a lot of strategy, then I can keep cool.

Q.       Yes, it might be an important point.

Sakuraba: The worst is self-absorbed driving.

Q.       What is that?

Sakuraba: Didnft you learn it at a driving school?  When you drive a car, you always have to keep in mind that someone might come out suddenly, so that you can avoid an accident without being in panic.  In the same way, it is not good to jump to the conclusion that Renzo is simple.

Q.       I see. It reminds me of an accident I had the other day.

Sakuraba: Hahaha..

Q.         I think the fight between Renzo and you is a good match.  Speaking of a well-matched fight, I felt Ebeneezer Braga was dangerous. But not so much  Renzo.

Sakuraba: I donft feel fear of death from him so much.  But such a type of person is more dangerous, in fact.

Q.       Hmmm.. You are not the type who gives fear to others either (laughing).

Sakuraba: But it seems Renzo never misses a chance.  As for Ebeneezer Braga, he doesnft miss a chance too, but he doesnft do anything if there is no chance.  Renzo is different.  If there is no chance, he takes an action to make a chance.  This type of fighter is stronger, I think.

Q.       I see.

Sakuraba: But I think I can show you a better fight in both standing and ground positions than the fight with Carlos Newton.

Q.       It sounds good.  We have been curious about who it would be that would defeat the Gracies so far.  But now you are beyond that concept.  Peoplefs eyes move to who will defeat Sakuraba, especially fighters too.

Sakuraba:  But for me everybody is the same except for students and Toyonaga Minoru.  Renzo is too.  To my knowledge from magazines, he seems like a nice guy.  Nothing specially to feel about it.  Moreover, he is the one who I have been eager to fight with.

Q.       You donft mind giving a fight money to him (laughing).

Sakuraba: Yes. (laughing)

Q.       By the way, there was a story in the beginning that Ishizawa will fight with Renzo.

Sakuraba: But I heard that Renzo wanted to fight with me first.  If my opponent was determined already, then Ishizawa would be next.  I didnft mind either way, but what about Ishizawa?  I donft know what he is saying about it, but he might feel bad.  It looks like I took Renzo away from him.

Q.       It is the first time for Ishizawa to fight in vale tudo.  So I think Ryan, a beginner in vale tudo too, is a good choice as his opponent.

Sakuraba: Ryan?  Who is that?

Q.       A younger brother of Renzo!

Sakuraba: Oh itfs him.  Sounds interesting.  It is enough then, isnft it?

Q.       What do you think is going to happen to Ishizawa?

Sakuraba: I wonder what kind of training he has been doing.  I have been telling him from a long time ago that it will be hard for him if he sticks to a style based on amateur wrestling.  I think Fujita, for example, did a lot of training of boxing and attack.  And it is a matter of experience if he can use them at a right moment.  Hence, it requires fighters to have a lot of strategy to survive in vale tudo from now on.

Q.       Ishizawa will come up to the ring with the name of Shin-Nihon (New Japan) on his back, so his fan will pay more special attention to him.

Sakuraba: Aaaa..

Q.       I donft think you consider yourself a representative of your group.

Sakuraba: He doesnft either, I think. If I put the name of my group on my back, it will be a pressure on me. I donft like it. Vale tudo fighting is not a team sport. When I was in high school, my team lost due to me at the final match.

Q.       Itfs a dark part of your past, isnft it?

Sakuraba: But name is not the one to put on your back, but to follow you, I think.  If you try hard and make a good result, then name comes after you.

Q.       Speaking of name, Rickson is keeping the name of gthe strongesth.

Sakuraba: Is that so?

Q.       If you defeat Renzo this time, then a lot of voice will be coming up next, gdo it!h

Sakuraba:  But nobody knows if I defeat him [Renzo].

Q.       Yes, but if you win, everybody will expect one more fight with the last man.

Sakuraba: Mmm.. I donft care about it.  I have more interests in Renzo and I want to do an interesting fight with him.  It will be fine, of course, if I win as a result.  I really feel that we will be able to do a good fight.  But it will be embarassing if it becomes a boring fight contrary to expectation.  So come and see the fight without any expectation!  You will feel as if you gain extra bonus, if the fight is interesting.

Q.       There is nobody to see the fight without any expectation (laughing).

Sakuraba: Haaac But our fights are not like a movie.  Nobody knows what will happen there.  When goes bad is bad.  As I said before, Pride is like a fortune bag.

Q.       A fortune bag!

Sakuraba:  Get it with a dream!  Sometimes there is something in it which is more than what you want, and sometimes there is none you want.  You will see when you open it!

Q.       Sounds nice!  But an interesting one and a boring one are coming one after the other in Pride recently.

Sakuraba: Well, then what is next?

Q.       It is supposed to be an interesting one.

Sakuraba: Aaa.. The last one was in Nagoya.  It was said that the final match of gPride GPh was interesting, but the opening fight was boring.

Q.       Your fight with Mezger was not good either.  But in Pride 8 before that, you defeated Royler and gave us fevers.

Sakuraba: Oh, yes. Thatfs right.

Q.       Before Pride 8, you fought with gMad Dogh Macias, and Takada with Otsuka.  Before that, it was interesting because of Ogawa.

Sakuraba: Yes, it is true. It is taking turn.  Recent fights are following that way.  According to it, the even number is interesting.  I hope this time will be interesting.

Q.       You know you are the main fighter.  What about the mask?  Will you show up with that mask again?

Sakuraba: No, nothing this time. If I do it second in a row, I will have to do it every time.  So, I wonft.

Q.       I see.

Sakuraba:  Renzo wonft do any performance at the entrance either.  If he makes a train like other Gracies, I have to do something too.  Since he comes to the fight for his own, I want to concentrate on only fighting and repay him by a fight this time.

Q.  Any way,  there are two more left in the Gracies for hunting.  Go for it!

(c) 2000, Yoko Kondo, all rights reserved.