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Global Training Report


Interview with

Kazushi Sakuraba uauv

Mark Kerr 

Talk about MMA

From  Gong Kakutougi no.91, Nov. 1999

   Translated by Kondo Yoko 

(Before Kerr's loss to Vovchyanchin)

Q.       First of all, I would like to ask your impression of the training from which you learned a lot of technique.

Kerr:  I think Sakuraba is a best technician in the world.  Observing his fights, it seems that he is doing technique with a different point of view from the ordinary people.  For example, in the fight with Victor Belfort his motion was new to me. (Kerr stood up and imitated Sakurabafs low-kick from above just like in the Ali vs. Inoki fight.) Sakuraba held Victor's leg from above and kicked it, at the same time preventing him from counter kicking.  That was ingenious.

Sakuraba:  To tell the truth, I wanted to swing his leg. (He disclosed that his original plan was to take position by swinging Victor's leg from that point.)

Kerr:  Oh, I see.  I think Sakuraba is a perfect fighter who is creative, doesnft depend on power, and is fighting with intelligence.

Q.       Is this your first time to meet Kerr for training?

Sakuraba:  No. I met him once before at Beverly Hills Jiu-jitsu Club. (He accompanied Takada to America before his rematch with Rickson)

Q.       Yes, right.  Then what is your impression about Kerr?

Sakuraba:  It seemed that he didnft get out of a frame of amateur wrestling in his early time.  But he is trying to absorb various kinds of thing and turn them into his own.  I think he is gradually making a progress in his fighting.  Only his power is emphasized from his appearance, but in a real fight he is showing not only power but also more technique as time goes on.

Q.       Did you do sparring with him at Beverly Hills?

Sakuraba:  No. We just met each other and had a meal together.

Q.       Then, this is the first training with him, isnft it?

Sakuraba:  I did a light training with him when he came here with Marco Ruas in Pride 4.  (according to the story I heard later, when he did a light sparring with Kerr, he taught Kerr how to escape from heel-hold in response to his request.)

Q.       His power must be amazing.

Sakuraba:  Yes, unbelievable (laughing).

Kerr: Wha ha ha (laughing)  For me Sakurabafs technique is more impressive than my power.  I think he is training technique while I am doing weight-training.  It will be great if two of them are well balanced.

Sakuraba:  I think so. (laughing)

Q.       But you donft like weight-training much, do you?

Sakuraba:  Sparring is more fun. (laughing)

Kerr:  Itfs an interesting opinion, I think.  I had done amateur wrestling very hard for 15 years and learned a lot of things.  But the reason why I came to NHB (no holds barred) is it is very enjoyable for me to learn new things since I met a new sport, NHB. That is one of the main reasons.

Q.       It is said that Sakuraba and Kerr are placed on the top of the world in each class, middle class and heavy class respectively.  If both of you keep winning,  a fight between you might be arranged in Pride some day.  Are you going to accept the offer then?

Sakuraba:  No, I donft want to. (laughing)

Kerr:  When I saw him defeat Conan by arm-lock once before, I thought he is a very strong, creative and smart fighter.  I donft want to fight with him either (laughing).

Q.       Donft you have any intention to seek for the top in open class?

Sakuraba:  No, I donft any intention.  But If there is no striking, I might try.

Kerr:  I think some 30 or 40kg difference in weight creates some difficulties that can't be overcome,  even with technique.  For example, a lighter fighter will get tired out more and more just and then it will be hard for him to avoid taking punches.  I will give you an example of that.  When I fought with Fabio Gurgel, who is a great fighter, I used my weight to tire him out. It was a conscious strategy.

Q.       If it has a rule of no striking like Abu Dhabi Combat rule, are you interested in fighting even in open class?

Sakuraba:  Yes, it is OK as long as there is no striking.

Kerr:  It might be possible to fight in open class in Abu Dhabi, because one sport changes into a different sport by taking in striking. A main point is that you can keep the position by technique, if there is no striking.  But, if striking is included into the rule, it will be difficult to keep the position.

Q.        Kerr won a championship in Abu Dhabi this year.  How do you think about participating in it?

Sakuraba:  In fact, I was invited to participate.

Q.       Oh, you were?

Sakuraba:  Yes.  But basically I donft like to go abroad. (laughing)  None of my dojo goes there, and I donft want to go to a foreign country alone.  

Q.       What a waste!  Actually, you are not alone.  There are other Japanese fighters and people from the media with you.

Sakuraba:  But what about food?

Q.       No problem.  It is an ordinary city with beautiful buildings standing.

Sakuraba:  Is that so?  But it will be really hard to be there, if I have no friends (laughing).

Kerr:  He doesnft have to make a special appeal to others in Abu Dhabi, because everybody knows that he is a great technician.  He already proved his capabilities in vale tudo.  In my case, everybody finds me just big and powerful.  So I wanted to prove my ground technique in Abu Dhabi.

Q.       Donft you have any idea of spreading your fame to all over the world in such a championship, or any desire for a prize?

Sakuraba:  I wish I could have won a prize. (laughing)  But the place is a problem to mec.

Kerr:  He is so famous that his guarantee must be very high.  If he won a prize, it would amount to close to 10 million yen including guarantee.

Sakuraba:  I will go wherever there is a door. (everybody burst out laughing, an interpreter explains to Kerr)

Kerr:  Open the door, here is Abu Dhabi (laughing).

----Kerr, bursting out laughing, started to say that, gI am sorry to say that, but I want you to finish the interview with two more questions.  I am so hungry.h  In fact, there are still more questions we preparedc Then the reporter rushes to select the questions.----

Q.       Well, Sakurabafs training menu is focused on sparring.  He does neither running nor stretching.  As for weight-training, he does only about 20 minutes a day.  It must be quite different from your way of training.  How do you think about it?

Kerr:  If you have a very good sparring partner, your technique will be improved and your movement will become more sharp by sparring.  You canft get these effects in weight-training.  But it is difficult to find a good sparring partner.  Thus one thing clear to me is that as you get old (Kerr is 30 years old), it gradually becomes more difficult to do sparring than when you are young.  I myself have a problem with my knees and hips.  Under this condition,  training for conditioning is becoming important.  I used to have good partners in Beverly Hills such as Marco Ruas, Bas Rutten, Pedro Rizzo, etc.  But since I left Beverly Hills, it has been difficult to find a good partner.  There are about two who can be considered a good partner in Arizona now.

Q:  Now it is said that a fight of Sakuraba vs. Franck Shamrock is the final strongest match of middle class in the world.  If it happens, what do you think it is going to be like?

Kerr:  Any way, Sakuraba is the best technician in the world now, so nobody in middle class can defeat him.  I believe in his victory, because he shows a good fight no matter how bad his condition is.  Well, may be he will defeat Shamrock by taking arm-lock.

Q.       Can I ask you one more easy question?

Kerr:  OK.

Q.       Recently I heard from Kosaka that most famous Japanese fighters in America are Sakuraba and Rumina Sato.  What is your opinion of it?

Kerr:  Well, Sakuraba and Akira Shoji are great fighters and many people know them by checking the result of Pride through internet.  And Takada is also famous for his 20-year-long fighting career.

-------- To my regret, time is up here. Kerr left Dojo in a good mood.  But it was beyond my imagination that a few days latter from this interview a shocking fight would be held between Igor Vovchyanchin and Kerr.

@(c) 1999, Yoko Kondo, all rights reserved.


@More Sakuraba interviews here.