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Global Training Report


Interview with 

Sakuraba Kazushi

From Kami no Puroresu No. 32

November 25, 2000

Translated by Yoko Kondo


Q: It is being rumored lately that Ogawa might fight with Rickson. If it happens, that will bother you, wonft it?

Sakuraba: No, not at all.

Q: Really?

Sakuraba: Anyone who wants to fight Rickson is welcome to do it. It doesn't matter to me at all.

Q:  Rickson is over 40 years old. 

Sakuraba: I donft know if I feel like fighting with a fighter in his thirties like Ogawa when I get to be around forty years old. I always have the  same comment on this topic. I want to fight Rickson if I have a chance. It is OK with me too not to fight with him, if there is no chance.

Q: Do you mean you have no interest in fighting Rickson?

Sakuraba: No, I donft mean that. But I want to fight with Renzo or Royce one more time. I heard that Rickson will fight with me depending on the conditions. If everything is arranged properly, I want to fight with him too.

Q: I see.

Sakuraba: But it is not my compelling wish, because there are many fighters who I have never fought with yet.

Q: Interviews and articles regarding Rickson are everywhere, so I donft have to ask you any questions about him, in fact (laughing). I donft want to ask you the same questions, but I have to (laughing).

Sakuraba: Even general magazines ask me about Rickson.

Q: Well, it is an easy topic to write an article about.

Sakuraba: What I mean is always the same, even if I express it differently. Enough is enough.

Q: And regarding a fight with Ryan whose name was coming up as your opponent in Pride 11, I heard that you said, gnot now, laterh. 

Sakuraba: Yes (smiling).

Q: What did you really mean by that?

Sakuraba: Well,  continuously fighting the Gracies doesnft seem interesting. Spectators will be tired of it. If the Gracies are finished, everything will be finished. So it is better to prolong it a little further (laughing).

Q: I see. You said in your comment that you donft want to fight with such a dangerous man like him. But it is not a reason for it, isnft it?

Sakuraba: Yes, any reason is OK to me (laughing).

Q: What is that?

Sakuraba: Whatever the reason is, I donft want to fight with him now (laughing).

Q: I am sorry to ask you about Rickson again, but I have one question I really wanted to ask you. Takada said after the fight between Funaki and Rickson that he wanted  Funaki to win as an Japanese, but he felt partly relieved that Funaki didn't win, because he wanted Sakuraba to defeat Rickson. How do you think about it?

Sakuraba: I am glad to  hear that.  I might do it if I can get 150,000,000 yen or 200,000,000 yen too (laughing) [translatorfs note: thatfs about $1.5 million or $2 million].

Q: But, I think it will bother you if someone else defeats Rickson first.

Sakuraba: But I will never say so. If I say that, it will cause trouble. I donft like such a thing personally (smiling).

Q:  You donft want to get involved in any trouble (laughing).

Sakuraba: If it happens, I will run away (laughing).

Q:  Newspapers and magazines make stories in their own way, and they connect one story with another as long as we leave them to do it (laughing).

Sakuraba: I donft remember which newspaper it was, but it quoted me as saying gCome on Rickson!h I never said that (pouting). I am getting sick of it this kind of thing. I really run away (laughing). If a reporter who I don't like comes around, I immediately escape out the back door on my bicycle (laughing). Donft get close to something you donft like!

Q: It is necessary to react to your opponent just like you do in the ring (laughing). By the way, Takada will fight with Vovchanchyn in Pride 11. What do you think will be the outcome?

Sakuraba: I donf t know.

Q: Yes, but any wish for Takada?

Sakuraba: I want him to do his best, because we are training together.

Q: Naturally (laughing).

Sakuraba: Now he is training with Satake very hard, so he will do well. 

[Translatorfs note: Satake is a stand-up fighter with years of K-1 experience, similar in style to Vovchanchyn, but less dangerous.]

Q: You fought with Vovchanchyn one time before. Did Takada ask you for an advice against Vovchanchyn?

Sakuraba: Yes, he did. He asked me how I got a tackle. Now he is training tackles the way I did. Besides, his training partner is Satake.

Q: Satake is an imaginary Vovchanchyn, isnft he?  What do you think is the most fearful point of Vovchanchyn?

Sakuraba: Itfs that punch. But itfs not invincible. There are many strong parts in him, but I discovered his weak point too in the fight with him.

Q: What is it?

Sakuraba: He escaped from the tackle of Kerr, but he couldnft get out of my tackle. Then I thought that he might be weak at this kind of tackle.

Q: Do you mean a one-leg tackle?

Sakuraba: Yes. In Kerrfs case, he takes tackles straight from the front by power.

[Translators's note: the interviewer began the next question by remarking that Vovchanchyn seems to be skillful at gaburi, which refers to an action of picking something up and throwing it away to the side. Mr. Sakuraba had no comment]

Q:  Well, letfs go back to the original subject. It is common to say, gI want to winh before a fight, but you always say,  "I donft know until itfs finished". I think, however, that I detect behind your words the strong feeling that  you donft want to lose (laughing). 

Sakuraba: Of course. But sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

Q: Every time I watch your fight, I think you are very unyielding (laughing).

Sakuraba: If I am attacked, I will retaliate by all means (laughing).

Q: I think you are the most unyielding fighter in Japan with such a poker face (laughing). It happens in general that emotionally expressive fighters are easily withered by one attack.

Sakuraba: Yes, itfs true. It is because of differences in capacity of patience. An emotionally expressive fighter often loses his composure quickly and blows up. But it takes a lot to make a poker faced fighter like me to lose his patience, and blow up (laughing).

Q: Looking back on your words before the fight with Renzo, saying that you had no motivation for the fight, I feel somehow deceived (laughing).

Sakuraba: No, it was true (Sakuraba states firmly). I didnft feel like doing it much more than I expressed in words.

Q: Tell me more clearly (laughing).

Sakuraba: I had a motivation for the fight, but the body didnft move. So I said I didnft feel like doing it. It is difficult to explain that condition, but itfs something like my body doesnft fit my mood.

Q: But you do it when it comes (laughing).

Sakuraba: Well, regarding the fight with Renzo, it makes me feel good that it ended with an arm lock like that.

Q: You are great in that you made it happen, rather than it simply happened [somehow]. Most fights end with nothing when the fightersf condition is not so good.

Sakuraba: I just used my 20 minutes worth of  stamina in the last one minute.

Q: Condensed stamina! (laughing). OK, letfs move to the next subject, Pride 11. It seems that your opponent is an American.....

Sakuraba: It looks like Don Fryefs recommendation. When it is the time to lose, I will lose in the fight even with him [translator's note: Mr. Sakuraba is referring to the unnamed opponent, who everyone assumes will not be as capable as most of his past opponents].

Q: You are fooling me with such talk again (laughing).

Sakuraba: Believe me! I started training just today because of an injury (smiling).

Q: Which part got hurt?

Sakuraba: Here (pointing).

Q: Armpit?

Sakuraba: The side of the armpit. I donft know if it is a problem with a tendon or muscle.

Q: Is it OK to say that before the fight?

Sakuraba: No problem.

Q: Is it recovered already?

Sakuraba: Not completely though. What date is it today? October 10th? It will be OK for 20 days before the fight.

Q: Cool!  But donft you think you always get hurt on some part of the body one month before the fight?

Sakuraba: Yes, because all my training partners are big.

Q: I get it! You donft like working, donft you (laughing)? Maybe you donft want to get into the working mode. I understand it, because I donft either.

Sakuraba: Maybe you're  right (laughing).

Q:  You always mention that you feel pain in here and that, because you donft want to put yourself into the working mode from an early time (laughing). My profession is completely different from yours, but I will do the same thing when I write my article (laughing). By the way, have you watched the video of your opponent yet?

Sakuraba: No, not yet (laughing). Donft you think it is too early to watch it now?

Q:  You are not the type of man who prepares for it in advance (laughing).

Sakuraba: I said it many times before, but an important key to success is to take him into my favorite pattern, I think. Conversely if I get into his favorite pattern or position, I will lose.

Q: It seems that is the way you do.

Sakuraba: Yes, basically it is. But I am recently getting lazy in things around me.

Q: You are lazy from a long time ago (laughing).

Sakuraba: No, I am lazier than before (laughing).

Q: Any way, just tell others that you want to fight with somebody. Thatfs all (laughing).

Sakuraba: Somebody? I want to fight with someone who Ifve never fought with before.

Q: I read it in an interview by somebody.

Sakuraba: I am looking forward to the next fight in Pride 11. He is a new opponent for me.

Q: It takes you a long time to get into the working mode. However, once you get in, you enjoy it.

Sakuraba: Yes, thatfs right. It is dull even to come to the dojo here after getting up....I feel dull on the way to the dojo, but I train hard once I get here.

Q: No matter whoever your opponent is, you are inclined to enjoy the fight. But there is also a possibility to fight the way you did in Pride 7 with Anthony "Mad Dog" Macias, isnft it? People complained, ggive us a break, Sakurabah.

Sakuraba: I donft know whatfs going on there until it starts. I might be knocked down by one punch.

Q: Shannon gthe Canonh Rich, your opponent, is a fighter who used to fight in vale tudos abroad, like Super Brawl  and IVC, isnft he?

Sakuraba: It might be my turn to be caught with ghazukashigatameh (laughing).

Q: cc.??

[Translator's note:  Mr. Sakuraba uses the expression hazukashigatame.  It derives from the word hazukasii (which means "embarrassing") and gatame ("pin", "hold") . It refers to the act of holding the opponent's legs wide apart while dropping your head and upper-body weight down toward his crotch. It's an effective method for passing the guard, but as Mr. Sakuraba says, maybe looks like a little embarrassing.]

Sakuraba: Isnft it funny?

Q: I feel there is your confidence hidden behind that word. To be sure, you had hard opponents one after another from Pride 8 last year. Didnft you have in your mind that you want to do some easy job now?

Sakuraba: I still have a feeling that I want to take a rest for about six months.

Q: Did it come up to you after the fight with Renzo, or with Royce?

Sakuraba: It came up to me after the fight with Royce. I have been thinking about taking a vacation for half a year or one year since then. I fought with Royce for 90 minutes. It seems to be equal to one-year working.

Q: Is it mentally getting hard to fight, being over 30 years old?

Sakuraba: Yes, it is.

Q: Looking at you, I donft feel it at all.

Sakuraba: In fact, I feel it in many ways. My training now is different from my training a few years ago. I could get my energy back after an afternoon nap before. But now I'm completely tired and have no guts left (laughing).

Q:  You want to sleep as long as possible.

Sakuraba: But I train because I have to. I never initiate any attacks during my training [renshu chu mo jibun kara mae ni ikunjanakute]. I simply sort of feint randomly and take his joint when it's there [tekito na "feint" kakete, kansetsu o torutte kanji].

Q: That's inside work, isn't it? [translator's note: the interviewer uses the English phrase "inside work", as in "sore ga 'inside work' desu ne?". We don't know what he means by this, and Mr. Sakuraba doesn't seem to reply directly to it, so maybe he doesn't know either]

Sakuraba: My view is getting broader than before, which is a good point in being over thirty. A broad view helps me feel less tired.

Q: You are doing a physical work, so it must be getting difficult to switch on your body.

Sakuraba: Yes, that's right.

Q: Any way, I hope you will do your best in Osaka Castle Hall. I am expecting a lot.

Sakuraba: What are you expecting (seriously)?@

Q:  I am expecting an interesting fight (laughing). Can I ask you the last question? Someone who saw your entrance in the last fight said, "it's ordinary (futsuu)" (laughing). How about this time?

Sakuraba: Ordinary is best, isn't it?

Q: Yes, it can be true of everything.

Sakuraba: Not good, and not bad, that is,  middle is best (yoku mo naku, waruku mo naku, futsuu ga ichiban)

Q: Middle is best (laughing)

Sakuraba: I will think about it too (smiling).

Q: Thank you!

Sakuraba: But I might forget it soon (laughing).

Q: I am sure you will.

[Editor's note: Vowel length is phonemic in Japanese. In our transcriptions we have sometimes omitted notations of vowel length to improve readability. If you don't read Japanese it won't make any difference one way or the other and if you do, you'll easily be able to infer whether it is a short or long vowel that is intended. This applies as well to our transcriptions in general, which are merely intended to be a rough guide for the average non-expert in Japanese linguistics.]@

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




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