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Press Conference K-1 Dynamite



Written by Monty DiPietro   
Saturday, 02 June 2007
LOS ANGELES, June 1, 2007 -- The K-1 and Hero's press corps have worked alongside everyone from Norika Fujiwara to Muhammad Ali. But the appearance today of a spry old Brazilian threw even these jaded journalists into a tizzy, and they crowded round staring, snapping pictures and smiling like little kids. The object of all this adoration was living legend Helio Gracie, the 93 year-old co-founder of the jiu-jitsu style that bears his name.

Gracie is in Los Angeles with his son Royce, who will take on Kazushi Sakuraba in the "Dynamite!! USA" mixed martial arts extravaganza tomorrow night at the Los Angeles Coliseum. For the Gracie family, this is not just about fighting, this is about honor.

The last time Royce Gracie and Sakuraba met was seven years ago. The bout, regarded as one of the most intense in mixed martial arts history, went on for an incredible 90 minutes before Royce's leg gave out and his corner threw in the towel.

It was not the only time Sakuraba has beaten a Gracie -- the Japanese fighter has recorded four victories over the illustrious fighting clan, earning him the nickname "the Gracie Hunter." Tomorrow, the Gracies will be looking for payback.

In the calm before the storm at today's Wilshire Grand Hotel press conference, a relaxed Royce Gracie shared his thoughts on the long-anticipated revenge match. "We two have fought one historic fight, and tomorrow we will fight another. We have one life to live, and this is my one chance. I know I will have my father and my family and all of Brazil in my corner, so I'm ready, let's do it!"

Sakuraba was characteristically cryptic regarding his preparations for the fight: "I have been training to improve my eyesight and training to improve my calculations," he smiled, "and after the training, now I'm ready."

There are 10 fights on the main Dynamite USA card. Alas, with an event as ambitious as this, there are bound to be hitches. Korean fighter Hong-Man Choi, the scheduled opponent for Brock Lesnar of the United States, could not pass his California Athletic Commission health check in time to be licensed to compete.

Gary Shaw, president of Pro Elite's live event division and a co-producer of this event, put things in perspective, "Fighters have big hearts and big balls, but the health, welfare and safety of the fighter is what really counts. Fighters drop off cards all the time, that is the nature of what we do. It is not catastrophic, it happens and we deal with it."
Lesnar, a standout college athlete turned three-time-time WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) champion and fightsport athlete par excellence, will now face Min Soo Kim.

"I'll prepared to fight any South Korean they put in front of me," joked Lesnar, who will be making his mixed martial arts debut tomorrow. "The transition to this style took me to my roots, my original University of Minnesota coach is on my team and I'm returning to my amateur wrestling background. I trained hard, and had a full year to prepare for mixed martial arts, so I feel very comfortable with it."

Kim, a former judo champion who has won his last two Hero's bouts, said he was ready for the challenge, "I will fight for my friend Hong-Man Choi!"

A bout of particular interest to K-1 fans will be the matchup between California-based two-time K-1 GP champion Mighty Mo and Ruben "Warpath" Billarreal, a Native American from the Kipawa Nation.

"I hope to see with the eyes of a hawk, and feel the power of my ancestors and those who stand beside me, that is the warrior way," said Warpath. "I know Mo has a right hook, but I've been blessed with a strong jaw!"

Mo is keen to see just how strong that jaw is: "I focused my training on stand up, but I also wanted to round out my skills," he said, "so I'm ready to grapple if I have to. I've seen Warpath fight, I think I can adapt to him if I stay focused on my abilities -- that will let me finish the job!"

In 205lbs/93kg contests, K-1 veteran Melvin Manhoef of Holland said he plans to use "explosive aggression" to overwhelm his Korean opponent Dong Sik Yoon; and former NFLer Johnnie Morton of the United States will tackle Cote d'Ivoire's Bernard Ackah.

JZ Calvan, the defending Hero's Middleweight champ, will step in against Nam Phan, a Californian of Vietnamese extraction, in a 155lbs/70kg matchup. At 170lbs/77kg it will be another Californian, Team Gracie fighter and first-rate grappler Jake Shields, taking on jiu-jitsu fighter Ido "The Hebrew Hammer" Pariente of Israel.

American Heavyweights Tim "Big Perm" Persey and Jonathan Wiezorek will lock horns; Isaiah Hill of the United States will fight Japanese Olympian Katsuhiko Nagata; and Brad Pickett said he plans to "show what the Brits are all about" in his dance with Hideo Tokoro of Japan.

FEG fight producer Sadaharu Tanikawa took the opportunity to introduce Brazilian jiu-jitsu sensation Marcelo Garcia to the hundreds of assembled media, announcing that Garcia has signed with FEG to fight this September 17. Tanikawa also brought out NBA star Dennis Rodman, who proclaimed, "I used to kick ass, well tomorrow these guys will kick some ass! F*ck the rest, K-1 is the best and K-1 is here to stay, so give 'em hell!"

"We have the top fighters and we have something completely different from what any other organization has done," said Tanikawa. "And I am also delighted to see the 93 year old Helio Gracie in the audience. I've heard that the main arena section seats are already sold out, and I look forward to a great event!"

Now in its 75th year, the Los Angeles Coliseum has played host to some truly spectacular sporting events, among them the the 1959 Major League Baseball World Series, the first NFL Super Bowl in 1967, and two Olympics (1932 and 1984). Tomorrow, Saturday, June 2, Dynamite USA will continue the tradition of excellence.

Ticket prices range from $10-$1,000 and are available through the LA Coliseum box office and Ticketmaster. The action kicks off at 5 p.m. and will be broadcast in the United States on Showtime (the first three bouts for free, the balance as pay-per-view), in Japan on the TBS Network, and in Korea on CJTV.



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