Dream 11 Notebook: Aoki Still Eyeing B.J. Penn, UFC Lightweights

By Tony Loiseleur Oct 7, 2009
TOKYO -- After wresting the lightweight title from Joachim Hansen in the final four seconds of their bout Tuesday at Dream 11, it seemed all but inevitable that Shinya Aoki would defend his new belt against deserving No. 1 contender Tatsuya Kawajiri at the Dec. 31 K-1 Dynamite event.

Instead, Aoki promised to “consider” Kawajiri's New Year’s Eve challenge, and then he took the opportunity to ridicule “Crusher's” direct request for a title shot in his post-fight comments.

“I was thinking, 'Why is he here?' I can't reply immediately,” said Aoki of the challenge before concluding that, rather than fight, he would rather take a break on Dec. 31.

“I don't even want to say anything about (New Year’s Eve). I've been fighting one bout after another, so I'm exhausted. I was thinking this was my last fight. I just want to rest. After that, then maybe I can decide on something. I'd like to fight B.J. Penn.”

Aoki has been slipping more and more UFC references into his commentary of late, no doubt fueled by his steady climb to the top of Dream's lightweight ranks. Given the frequency of the comments -- and coming on the greatest night of his career, no less -- the talk is likely more than just saber-rattling on his part.

“I want to fight the best in the world, like B.J. Penn and Kenny Florian -- strong guys like that,” he said. “I want to take them out and prove that Japanese are truly strong. I was told by someone that 'you got the belt, now you're number one in the world,' but I don't think so. Being top of the world isn't something so trivial. If I could become like B.J. Penn, I could die (happy).”

Fernandes Content with Performance, Evolution

Part and parcel of competing in a Japanese tournament is the risk of fighting two taxing battles in one night. Dream featherweight grand prix champion and featherweight divisional champion Bibiano Fernandes shared such a fate with finals opponent Hiroyuki Takaya. Fatigue decreased Fernandes' takedown attempts as his championship bout with the “Streetfight Bancho” wore down to the end.

“He really gave me no other option. I tried to take him down and fight on the ground, but he kept pushing forward with big punches and all I could do was answer him in kind. He's an excellent boxer, and I consider myself an excellent boxer as well. The proof is in me knocking him down and him squirming on the mat,” remarked Fernandes, who gave a shout out to Canadian boxing coach Tony Pep for preparing him for such a war.

Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog.com

Fernandes was impressive at Dream 11.
“I ate good shots, and it's something I should reflect on. Still, it was as I expected,” a red-eyed Takaya remarked post-fight, acknowledging Fernandes' standup abilities. “I had some pain carried over from the first fight, but that's it. It helped me get into the groove for the second fight, but it went long and in the end, yeah, I was really tired. But as for the content of the fight, there's nothing for me to be ashamed of.”

At Wednesday's post-fight presser, Fernandes described the fight as a “war.”

“Takaya was a good fighter in the standup,” he said. “I could prove that I am also good in standup as well, so I'm showing growth.”

Dream event producer Keiichi Sasahara noted that while staging Fernandes' first defense this year would be difficult, Dream would try to put one together as soon as possible in 2010. Sasahara tabbed Takaya in a rematch as his current idea of Fernandes' best contender.

Ratings Success

Despite much gnashing of teeth by MMA purists at some of the Dream 11 bouts, the event's matchmaking justified itself in delivering a respectable 12.7 percent average rating during its primetime broadcast on TBS Tuesday evening. Though just under four percent shy of their last primetime effort for May's Dream 9, Sasahara expressed satisfaction with the rating, tabbing the Super Hulk Tournament as the responsible party for the satisfactory rating.

In breaking down their viewership, Sasahara pointed toward central Japan's Niigata prefecture and the Southern isles of Kyushu as the regions that contributed the most viewers -- 17.5 and 18.4 percent respectively -- jesting that Dream's next non-Tokyo foray might well be taken to these locations.
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