TOKYO, March 7, 2009 — The FEG mixed martial arts production, DREAM, kicks off its second year tomorrow with the DREAM.7 Featherweight Grand Prix 2009 1st Round. Set at the futuristic Saitama Super Arena, the event features a dozen of the world’s best under-63kg/139lbs fighters in a sextet of elimination matches. Those possessed of the agility and aggression required to win will earn the right to advance toward the ultimate prize — the DREAM Featherweight GP championship belt.
The 12th hopefuls met with the media today at the East 21 Hotel in Tokyo.
In the Main Event, it will be Japanese fighter Masakazu Imanari, a tough guy known for his leg submissions; and the speedy Atsushi Yamamoto, also Japan and fighting out of Kid Yamamoto’s Krazy Bee gym.
Said Yamamoto, taking a page from his opponent’s playbook, "I’m going to give it my all tomorrow, going for a leg submission!"
Replied Imanari: "He looks like he’s healthy enough, it will be interesting, and it will be exciting, don’t miss it!"
In another Featherweight GP elimination contest, world-class striker Hiroyuki Takaya of Japan will step in against Korean MMA fighter Jong Won Kim.
Said Kim: "I’m honored to be in such a big show, my opponent is good I respect him, this will be a great show."
Answered Takaya: "I’m in good condition, at the weigh-in I saw that he’s also in good shape, so I agree this’ll be a good fight."
Twenty-seven year-old Japanese Pancrase fighter Yoshiro Maeda was a high school table tennis whiz, who found his MMA calling late but has since excelled in the sport. Tomorrow he will meet Micah Miller of the USA, who fights for the celebrated American Top Team.
"I appreciate being here, and all that all that the Japanese officials have done," said Miller, "but make no mistake, I’m here to win and take the belt home to American Top Team!"
Said Maeda: "As soon as I saw my opponent’s face, I thought, ‘I’ll punch it and kick it!’ I’ll get the KO!"
A highly-anticipated matchup will pit slugger Akiyo "Wicky" Nishiura of Japan against American submission master Abel Cullum. The pair’s contrasting styles was reinforced at the press conference, as Nishiura pranced in with pink hair, and Cullen sidled up in a black cowboy hat.
Said Cullen: "I’m just a cowboy from a small town of 4,500 people, but I’ll show some fireworks in Japan — I’ll fight with heart and never give up!"
Referencing his hair color, Nishiura threatened to "cover the ring with my color!"
There followed some confusion as to whether blood was properly pink or red, this compounded by the Japanese fighter’s insistence that his own blood was pink. Cullen concluded by saying he would be happy to finish the fight colored pink.
American choke sleeper specialist Chase Beebe will battle compatriot Joe Warren, a wrestler.
Said Warren: "I’m the US greco-roman champ, and I’m here to get the belt so I can put in my room with all the rest. It will be violent, I want to rip his heart out and eat it!"
The prospect of being cannibalized did not unnerve Beebe, it motivated him: "I respect my opponent, but I guarantee tomorrow you’ll see someone’s face get smashed in."
In the last of the Feather Weight Grand Prix fights, Japanese wrestler Takafumi Otsuka will step in against accomplished Brazilian jujitsu fighter Bibiano Fernandes.
"I like to fight, I don’t like to talk," said Fernandes. "He looks like a good guy, and outside the ring I can respect him, but in the ring I will only focus on beating him!"
Said Otsuka: "This is my fourth time fighting a Brazilian, I saw his videos and he’s a good fighter and he’s a nice guy, but tomorrow I will KO him!"
In a Welterweight Superfight, Japanese MMA ace Shinya Aoki will take on American wrestler David Gardner.
Said Gardner: "I’m fighting one of the best in the world, I’m looking forward to it and I’m going to take the fight to him!"
Quipped a confident Aoki: "This year, I will continue to challenge, to go all the way!"
In a Lightweight Superfight, it will be a couple of very experienced and competitive Japanese — Mitsuhiro Ishida and Daisuke Nakamura.
Said Nakamura: "I will fight a strong opponent tomorrow, but I’ll fight my usual style, and give it my all!"
Joked Ishida: "I want to thank my team because they helped me train for this, so that he won’t be able to get me in an arm bar!"
Also at Lightweight, Tatsuya Kawajiri of Japan will meet Ross Ebanez, an American who did not attend the press conference as he was working on making weight.
The DREAM.7 Featherweight Grand Prix 2009 1st ROUND kicks off at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 8 at the Saitama Super Arena. It will be broadcast live in Japan in HD on Pay-Per-View, and on the TBS national network. For delay-broadcast information in other countries, contact local providers. As always, visit the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp) for comprehensive coverage of this and all FEG productions.