TOKYO -- All fighters came in on weight Saturday for Sengoku Raiden Championship 12, and the event’s news conference was a largely routine affair except for two fighters who discussed kissing.
Henry “Sentoryu” Miller wore a cotton mask to protect himself from opponent Yoshihiro "Kiss" Nakao, who earned the nickname after being knocked out prefight by Heath Herring when he planted an ill-advised kiss on him during their staredown in 2005's K-1 Dynamite.
“It's nothing to get that worked up over, really,” Nakao jested with Miller. “More than that, though, you ruined a perfect chance for a kiss. Why are you wearing a mask today? What I want to know is whether you'll be wearing that mask tomorrow during your entrance?”
Playing into Nakao’s act, Miller said he would consider wearing his mask to tomorrow's bout in order to avoid Nakao's misguided affections on fight day.
Perennial class-clown and UFC veteran Akihiro Gono also joked around by saying how good his behavior has been leading up to his fight against Diego Gonzalez.
“Like WVR's new president stated in his address, I myself am also under new and healthy management. Since the summertime, I've given up my night life and have not partied at all, devoting my time to strict training and being healthy,” said Gono, likely factoring in his February sojourn to American Kickboxing Academy as part of his career renaissance.
Mamed Khalidov, who defeated incumbent champion Jorge Santiago at Sengoku 11 last November and will rematch him Sunday for the title, said the bout is one of the most important of his career.
“All the questions will be answered in the ring tomorrow,” said the middleweight title challenger.
A calm but determined Santiago stated that he had no intention of vacating the top spot in SRC's middleweight picture, however.
“I had a great camp, and I'm really excited to fight Mamed over again and prove to everybody that I am the champ, that I'll be the champ tomorrow and that I will keep the Sengoku middleweight championship for a long time,” Santiago said.
The news conference was also highlighted by additional changes occurring in the SRC and World Victory Road offices. Taking the place that Takahiro Kokuho left upon his departure from World Victory Road and Sengoku, Toru Mukai has stepped up as WVR's president.
“The world economy has been very difficult for all of us. As for all [MMA] events, we may not be in the best of positions now, but thanks to the support of our sponsors and our related connections, SRC has been able to make it to a third year,” said Mukai, who reiterated hopes to see SRC become a fixture in the Asian MMA sphere.
Thanks to the aforementioned sponsors and “related connections,” Mukai stated that tickets were already sold out for Sunday's event. Previously, Sengoku's unique sponsorship programs saw that a majority of its tickets were sold to and distributed by the event's sponsors.
Currently, the newest of these sponsors is Senko Co. Ltd. As reported by Japanese sports newspaper Nikkan Sports, Senko contributed 60 million yen to the promotion after Sengoku signed Japanese MMA's biggest blue-chip prospect, 2008 Beijing games judo gold medalist Satoshi Ishii. A major logistics company listed on both the Tokyo and Osaka stock exchanges, it currently shares logo space alongside Don Quijote on SRC 12's promotional material, indicating its importance as a major sponsor of the promotion.
An optimistic Mukai thus closed his address with lofty goals in mind.
“In a few years’ time, we hope to catch up with the UFC in the United States,” he said, “and hope that in Japan, this event will eventually gain the attention that baseball and soccer currently has in the world of sports.”
Jorge Santiago (82.9 kg / 182.8 lbs) vs. Mamed Khalidov (82.6 kg / 182.1 lbs)
Akihiro Gono (76 kg / 167.6 lbs) vs. Diego Gonzalez (75.9 kg / 167.3 lbs)
Maximo Blanco (69.8 kg / 153.9 lbs) vs. Chang Hyun Kim (69.9 kg / 154.4 lbs)
Marlon Sandro (64.7 kg / 142.6 lbs) vs. Tomonari Kanomata (64.9 kg / 143.1 lbs)
Yoshihiro Nakao (99.7 kg / 219.8 lbs) vs. Henry Miller (109.9 kg / 242.3 lbs)
Nick Denis (64.9 kg / 143.1 lbs) vs. Yuji Hoshino (64.9 kg / 143.1 lbs)
Leonardo Santos (69.6 / 154.4 lbs) vs. Kiuma Kunioku (69.3 kg / 152.8 lbs)
Shigeki Osawa (65 kg / 143.3 lbs) vs. Kyung Ho Kang (65 kg / 143.3 lbs)
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