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Global Training Report


Interview with 

Sakuraba Kazushi

From Gong Kakutougi

No.108, April 2001  

Interviewed by Kumakubo Hideyuki


Translated by Yoko Kondo


Q: Vanderlei Silva was chosen for your opponent in Pride 13 on March 25th. Regarding Vanderlei, it is said that he might be a strong and difficult  opponent for you. 

Sakuraba: Well, his knee kickcc I donft know anything about his groundwork, but he might be very good at it. And Ifm scared of his face.

Q: Have you seldom fought with fighters mainly based on striking?

Sakuraba: I have. I did with a strong fighter named Rene Rose [?] who was about two meters tall. (laughing) [In June, 1996, in his U-Inter period, Sakuraba defeated him with leg-lock] I felt like I was launched into the air [futtoba sareta kanji] by his one low kick.

Q: But Rose was a strike-only fighter, wasnft he?

Sakuraba: Yes, he was. I think Silva is much more accustomed to this rule.

Q: In the fight with Metzger, he fought equally even on the ground.

Sakuraba: I didnft watch that part. I donft know how much ground technique Metzger has, either.

Q: After all, Silva defeated him by KO.

Sakuraba: But, it resulted from Silvafs head-butt, which was against the rule. Metzger was beaten at the moment when Silva's head butt put him on queer street [fura fura shita]. It is the same as what happened in the first fight between Kerr and Vovchanchyn. If knee-kicks had been allowed there, Kerr would have been more cautious of it and consequently could have avoided being KOed. But he took a knee-kick contrary to his expectation that there would be no knee-kick, so he was knocked out. Thus, I think the Silva vs. Metzger fight should be ruled a "no-contest". I wonder if my sharp comment on that fight makes Silva angry. (laughing)

Q: It is a great pleasure to watch you fight with a fighter mainly based on striking.

Sakuraba: The best way is to get him into the ground.

Q: So Silva, a striker, is not a difficult opponent for you?

Sakuraba: There is no difference between strikers and grapplers in terms of the timing of their attacks.

Q: Kicks and knee-kicks will be allowed on the ground under a new rule.

Sakuraba: All I have to do is to counter attacks against attacks. No, I should attack before being attacked. It is not good to imagine only that I would be attacked.

Q: When the rule is changed, do you train for it?

Sakuraba: No, I donft. Basically I train only wrestling as usual, and sparring for striking a little bit. As I said many times before, a key to success is not to adjust to the pace or rule of an opponent, but to get him into my own world at my pace.

Q: Put him into your pattern? 

Sakuraba: Yes, there would be no problem if I could put him into my favorite pattern.

Q: You continuously fought with the Gracies mainly based on the groundwork. Can you get back the sense for the fight with a striker?

Sakuraba: The timings of taking a tackle and giving a blow are the same. Only a little difference between them is to be cautious not to get a blow, or to be cautious after being grappled. I am training with Mr. Satake. He is training how to avoid tackles while striking, and Ifm training how to avoid his strikes and take tackles. If I could lift Mr. Satake, I would be able to lift Silva. Their size is different [Satake is heavier by about 30 lbs. than Vanderlei].

Q: Did you think that you would one day fight with Silva?

Sakuraba: Yes. I wanted to fight with him some day, because I havenft fought with him even once so far.

Q: Is he a desirable opponent for you?

Sakuraba: Yes. Even if I am knocked out, it wonft hurt me. But I donft want punches on the body, which are so painful to me. (laughing) If he knocks me down, I want him to do it by a blow on my chin without giving me any pain. Chin, or around here (pointing the back of the head). A blow from somewhere I canft see is very effective, isnft it? Look at the fight between Mr. Uno [Kaoru Uno] and Mr. Rumina! [Rumina Sato]. When Mr. Rumina tried to stand up, he took a a punch without noticing it coming. So he was on queer street [fura fura shita], although it was not a strong punch. But I think Mr. Rumina felt good with it. I want Silva to knock me down that way. (laughing) If so, I will accept it. But if he gives me a pain, I will give it back to him without fail.

Q: gDonft strike me on the body!hc.(laughing)

Sakuraba: I havenft done much exercise for abs, either. (laughing) My training for abs is only to such a degree which is enough for getting up from the under position on the ground in a sparring. And I want Silva to lengthen his hair this time. A close-cropped head is slippery.

Q: It seems that he sometimes lengthens his hair a little bit and pricks with his head.

Sakuraba: I donft care at all. I will attack him with my beard too.

Q: A prickling attack! (laughing)

Sakuraba: Yes. (laughing) You will lose if you think that you hate this prickle, because it means you are already trapped into his strategy. Even in training, if I endure the pain with a poker face, an opponent stops it wondering if it doesnft work.

Q: There is some fighter in Muay Thai who smiles when he feels pain.

Sakuraba: No, donft react to it at all, or just say, gI donft feel anythingh in a low voice. Then an opponent might start attacking again out of anger, but finally he will let you go as long as you endure it.

Q: I see. Donft you feel fear for his fighting style or his physical ability?

Sakuraba: I think his physical ability is great. But no matter how great his physical ability, he doesnft stand on four legs, so he falls down without any exception. He doesnft have eyes on the back of his head; he is off his guard without fail. So I will watch for that chance, and make it somehow.

Q: Silva says many times, gI will beat Sakuraba as badly as he has to go to the hospital.h

Sakuraba: Well, he might try to draw attention by saying something violent.

Q: He also says that he doesnft like you, because you are not serious in the ring.

Sakuraba: No. I am doing ghonoo no komah [translatorfs note: It is his original technique, in which he turns the body of an opponent who is lying on the back on the ground.] or other technique seriously. I am a professional fighter. I get money from people for my fights. I donft think that just beating an opponent is considered a professional fight. I think he should be aware of it. If he has the same experience as mine who lost the fan base, in U-inter and Kingdom [defunct pro wrestling organizations], which I belonged to, he will see how to make spectators happy or how to draw attention of fans. I think he should learn about it.

Q: But Silva makes the spectators excited by a good fight every time.

Sakuraba: But only thing he does is beating, isnft it? If so, why doesnft he go and fight in K-1?

Q: Considering your feeling about him, the fight Sakuraba vs. Silva sounds more interesting.

Sakuraba: Then, I will make him happy with my gshiawase choph [Sakuraba's original unique "happy chop"]. (laughing)



(c) 2001, Yoko Kondo, all rights reserved.

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