When Alfred Tennyson wrote “ring out the old, ring in the new,” the English poet was referring to the pealing of church bells to mark the beginning of a new year. It is also a Japanese tradition to strike the temple bell on December 31, but these days Tennyson’s phrase could just as easily be applied to the ringside bell at the Dynamite!! New Year’s Eve fight-sport extravaganza.
Over the last five years, K-1 Premium Dynamite!! has become one of the most widely-watched television productions in Japan, with estimates of up to 30 million viewers. This is fight-sport entertainment for the entire family, and tomorrow’s lineup is designed for maximum appeal. The evening’s 15 fights will feature wily veterans and wide-eyed teens; popular television “tarento” and foreign behemoths; and yes, more than a few match ups aimed at martial arts purists.
Seven bouts will be fought under Hero’s Rules (mixed martial arts), and eight under K-1 Rules (stand-up).
The Dynamite!! 2007 fighters met with the media this afternoon at the Osaka Imperial Hotel, to share their thoughts in advance of tomorrow night’s Kyocera Dome showdown.
In the Main Event, it will be a couple of Japanese mixed martial arts legends meeting under Hero’s Rules, with a 85kg/187lbs weight contract. Kazushi Sakuraba and Masakatsu Funaki both bring a wealth of experience and illustrious careers to the ring. Both are grapplers and so this fight is expected to go to the mat early.
The pair were clearly enjoying themselves at the press conference, and joked frequently about their physical condition and speed and so on. Both pledged to do their very best to make a fight worthy of the Main Event.
The penultimate matchup will feature Japanese mixed martial arts star Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter Rani Yahya in a 61kg/135lbs HERO’S contest. This is one for the serious fight-sport fans. Yahya, who was not in attendance at a press conference, nevertheless received words of respect from The Kid.
“My opponent is highly skilled,” said Yamamoto, “but I believe if I set the pace, a favorable result will follow.”
Five years ago, Bob Sapp had one of the most recognizable faces in Japan. The powerful American fighter is back for a HERO’S bout with another very recognizable face, Japanese television “tarento” and comedian Bobby Ologun of Nigeria.
True to form, Sapp provided one of the few provocative comments at this otherwise reserved press conference: “I have just one question for Bobby—do you think the audience will find it funny when I knock you out?”
Replied Ologun: “I don’t know exactly what will happen tomorrow, but I do know one thing, I will give Bob my best punch!”
In other Hero’s fights:
Kiyoshi Tamura of Japan will take on compatriot Hideo Tokoro.
Tamura: “There are a lot of good fighters here, and we are all going to bring cheer to the fight world. Personally, I hope to put on the best fight of all!”
Tokoro: “I agree, I will also show my best in the ring tomorrow.”
Japanese former pro wrestler Minowaman will go up against Zulu, a Brazilian who weighs in at a whopping 185kg/408lbs.
Minowaman: “I mean to show that weight difference makes no difference in fight-sports—it is the spirit that matters most!”
Zulu: “I am very moved to be here, I have practiced hard for MMA and hope to contribute to the sport.”
The ever-aggressive Dutch kickboxer Melvin Manhoef will test his mixed martial arts skills against Japanese boxer Yosuke Nishijima.
Manhoef: “It’s my first time in Dynamite!!, and I hope to bring an explosive fight tomorrow!”
Nishijima: “I promise to do my very best.”
In a 70kg/154lbs bout, it will be wrestler Kazuyuki Miyata of Japan and multidisciplinarian Joachim Hansen of Norway.
Miyata: “I hope to show a great MMA fight, with lots of action and movement.”
Hanson: “I will do my best to give the best fight that I can.”
There will be some big names competing in the K-1 Rules side of the Dynamite!! card.
World Max star Masato will be making his annual appearance, the Japanese kickboxer hosting accomplished boxer Yong Soo Choi of South Korea.
Masato: “Tomorrow my intention is to use punches and kicks to win as quickly as possible—one minute, or maybe even one second! Of course, my opponent is a great fighter, but I will show that I am greater.”
Choi: “Boxing is my strength, I have never fought in K-1 so I am a little anxious but I hope I will get over that nervousness in the ring tomorrow.”
Seidokaikan fighter Nicholas Pettas of Denmark will take on ssirium wrestler Young Hyun Kim of South Korea.
Pettas: “I started studying karate in Jan 1998 and I have come a long way in the last 20 years. Tomorrow I will show my maturity and bring my ultimate fight to the ring.”
Kim: “I am honored to be here and we’ll show my very best.”
Japanese seidokaikan fighter Musashi will take on the card’s second African-born Japanese television comedian when he meets Bernard Ackah of Cote d’Ivoire.
Musashi: “I’m from Osaka and we love comedians here. I respect Ackah for what he is, but this is K-1 and I will do better in the ring!”
Ackah: “I may be a comedian but I’m a fighter as well and that’s why I’m here—there will be no comedy in the ring tomorrow!”
Japanese fighters Takashi Tachikawa and Yoshihisa Inoue will meet in an undercard bout.
Tachikawa: “I feel a little intimidated to be surrounded by all these great fighters, but I will show a great fight tomorrow.”
Inoue: “My daughter is fighting an illness, I want to fight and win tomorrow so she and I can celebrate together.”
Dynamite!! 2007 also includes a special K-1 Rules tournament for fighters aged 18 and under, with a 60kg/132lbs weight limit. The K-1 U-18 Japan Tournament aims to develop the next generation of Japanese K-1 fighters. The tournament mirrors the classic K-1 elimination format, but with four fighters participating instead of eight.
The preeminent Japanese K-1 prospect is undoubtedly Hiroya, who will turn 16 next week but has already prevailed in all four of his special K-1 matches. In his semifinal bout tomorrow, Hiroya will face Kizaemon Saiga.
Hiroya: “Whenever I am in the ring I know I have to make a fight that everybody can enjoy, and so I will give my all to do that.”
Saiga: “I am honored to be here, I will try my best and make an exciting match.”
The other semifinal will feature kickboxers Kenji Kubo and Yudai.
Kubo: “I will give my all to become number one in U-18!”
Yudai: “I promise I will become the champion!”
In the U-18 Reserve Fight it will be Ryo Murakoshi vs Arata Fujimoto.