Pride Fighters Arrive In Tokyo
Pride Fighters Arrive in Tokyo
By Aaron Crecy
Varig Airlines’ Tuesday morning flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo held nearly half the Pride 14 card and their trainers, including Dan Henderson, Vanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, Johil de Oliveira, Jose "Pele" Landi-Jons and Nino "Elvis" Schembri. The fighters were greeted at Narita Airport by a horde of Japanese media and autograph seekers. After pausing several minutes for pictures and interviews, the group boarded a limo bus for the two-hour journey to the Hilton Tokyo in Shinjuku.
The mood was very congenial as Ken Shamrock counseled Belfort and Henderson about their upcoming fights. The trio then proceeded to discuss the future of the UFC, Vitor’s charity work in Rio de Janeiro and methods to discourage crime in their respective countries-a very down-to-earth conversation indeed.
Belfort says he weighs around 205 lbs., which means that he is likely to give up anywhere from 40 to 50 lbs. to the taller Heath Herring. However, Belfort exuded confidence and seems undeterred by the weight discrepancy, perhaps in part because he spent the past two weeks working on grappling skills with former U.S. National Greco Roman team member Darrel Gholar. And longtime boxing coach Al Stankey is once again helping train the Phenom. MMA aficionados will recall that Stankey was in Belfort’s corner during his 52-second demolition of David "Tank" Abbott in UFC 13.
Henderson appears to be in top shape for his battle with the resilient Akira Shoji, particularly after training with Tito Ortiz and Fabiano Iha for the past few weeks-just as he did before his fight with Renzo Gracie in Pride 13. Teammate Matt Lindland joined Henderson in Orange County for the past week while Randy Couture remained at home in Oregon, recovering from a badly bruised left leg suffered during his epic victory over Pedro Rizzo in UFC 31.
Sources say that the 16,000-seat Yokohama Arena is already sold out for Sunday’s event. Stay tuned for more on-the-scene reports and interviews from Pride 14 throughout the week.
Pride 14 Fight Schedule
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Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Shannon Ritch
Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Nobuhiko Takada
Gilbert Yvel vs. Vanderlei Silva
Akira Shoji vs. Herman Renting
Yoshiaki Yatsu vs. Gary Goodridge
Heath Herring vs. Tom Erikson
Alexander Otsuka vs. Mike Bourke
Masaaki Satake vs. Naoya Ogawa