While outworking challenger Joachim Hansen to retain the featherweight title at Dream 13 on Monday in Yokohama, Japan, Bibiano Fernandes said that Hansen’s ability to jump to his feet after takedowns didn’t deter him.
“I knew that Hansen would be looking to avoid the takedown. I expected him to try and stand up from the ground as quickly as possible and to keep coming at me to keep the fight standing. It didn’t really discourage or put any pressure on me,” said the champion, who earned a split decision in front of an announced audience of 13,712 fans.
Fernandes also expressed great appreciation toward “Hellboy,” claiming that a bout against the more experienced veteran helped him further develop from being a jiu-jitsu champion into becoming an MMA champion.
As for the next featherweight challenger, Fernandes claimed no particular preference, deferring to Dream event producer, Keiichi Sasahara. Fernandes also credited his recent rise to prominence to the bespectacled and spiky-haired promotional executive.
“I pointed to Mr. Sasahara,” said Fernandes. “I thanked him for my success. He invited me to Japan, and I became successful here. He invited me to come down from Hero’s, telling me that my fights were good, and from then, that was really the start of my career here in Japan.”
As for Hansen, though his first foray into the featherweight division went unrewarded, the former lightweight champion still intends to campaign at 139 pounds, claiming to have felt good in his first weight-cutting experience.
Mo campaigns for rematch, Barnett agrees
A chronic sufferer of low blows, a discontented Siala “Mighty Mo” Siliga pushed for a rematch against Josh Barnett in his post-fight interview, claiming that, “it’s not fair for me to keep fighting like that. Any man in here cannot fight after being kicked ‘there’.”
Mo even accused opponents of devising game plans based upon hitting him in the groin, so as to make him easier to defeat. While the latest offender in Mo’s low-blow troubles, Barnett, did not concede to intentionally hitting Siliga in the groin, he did agree that Mo deserved a rematch in addition to the free knee to the groin that he allowed the Samoan to dish out on him after their fight.
“I’m glad I made Mo some money -- I’m just sorry he had to take a kick below the belt. But I’ll give Mo a rematch,” said Barnett. “That’s fine. He deserves it. And if I’m going to make someone money, I might as well make him some money. Why not?”
Dream event producer Sasahara claimed that while he would entertain a rematch between Barnett and Mo if the fans desired to see them fight again, he personally felt that Barnett should set his sights on both Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem and former Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko.
Barnett expressed interest in returning to the Dream ring, provided that he and the promotion are able to reach an agreement in future negotiations, implying that Barnett is still a free agent.
Kikuno credits mental discipline for victory
A thoughtful Katsunori Kikuno made mention of his mental discipline and how it led him to best UFC veteran and Cage Force lightweight champion Kuniyoshi Hironaka. As a stalwart karate practitioner, Kikuno asserted that there was more to his fight style than a particularly effective crescent kick.
“Honestly, I didn’t think (the crescent kick) would be so incredibly effective. But I believe I saw him make a face as if he didn’t like it (when I crescent kicked him), so maybe it was somewhat effective,” said Kikuno. “But I was completely concentrated on the fight, so I didn’t notice anything outside of the voices of my corner. I’m not even sure how I beat him -- I just kept aiming for his jaw and liver.”
“In the Alvarez fight, my concentration broke down, so I wasn’t able to calm my head and just focus,” he continued. “I couldn’t make the fight how I imagined, where my opponent would not be able to do anything, and I’d just pick one blow to win. In this fight, however, I was able to focus on setting up my mental state, I believe.”
Both Hironaka and Kikuno displayed the utmost respect for one another, with Hironaka acknowledging -- if grudgingly -- the up-and-coming lightweight’s strength.
“I didn't think he possessed a good punch before, but in the end I got knocked out, so I must now admit that he's got a solid punch. I accepted the result, and after the fight, we exchanged hopes to work with each other again. A loss is a loss, and I accept it and give nothing but praise to Kikuno,” said Hironaka.
Escovedo gives props to first Japanese opponent
Former WEC featherweight champion Cole Escovedo had nothing but respect for his first Japanese opponent, fellow WEC vet Yoshiro Maeda, who Escovedo viciously knocked out during their featherweight contest.
“I got exactly what I expected from Maeda. He came quick, came hard, like I’ve seen in previous champions. He was everywhere, aggressive,” said Escovedo. “It was an honor to fight him. Fighting him made me a better fighter, because I had to raise up my game. My impression was good -- I got exactly what I expected from a Japanese fighter.”
Maeda, on the other hand, didn’t have much of an impression, let alone anything else to say. In fact, Maeda could not recall enough of the fight to make comments.
“I can’t remember everything. I really only have partial memory,” was Maeda’s response to most of the questions fielded his way.
While Escovedo left Maeda with three minutes of memory loss and a headache, the current Tachi Palace Fights bantamweight champion felt that he also left a lasting impression on the fans that witnessed the quick destruction of his opponent.
“I feel I came out there and showed what an American champion can be like, and I feel I was respectful by doing it. I went out there, did my best, and I think the fans should be happy. People should be scared of me, but they should also respect me now,” said Escovedo.
Quoteworthy, Odds and Ends:
“I originally intended to announce (details about the next Dream event) yesterday, but it’s still being adjusted. The plan is to have another show either in April or May. Please give me a little more time.” -- Keiichi Sasahara, on the planning process for Dream 14, rumored to be their debut card in South Korea.
“Until losing to Alvarez, I won eight fights in a row and forgot what losing was like. While it was a good position to be in, I got carried away. I was afraid of a top fighter like Alvarez, but in order to take the fight to him, I forced myself too much into thinking ‘I will beat him,’ and ran from my nervousness and fear. That’s why I didn’t concentrate.” -- Katsunori Kikuno
“I pretty much used only my hands in the fight because -- I think it was three weeks ago -- I think I fractured my (right) foot. I gotta’ go to the doctor when I get back to the states, but I’m pretty sure my foot has been broken for three weeks. But, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to fight. I’m a warrior, you know? I had to get a paycheck and had to beat someone up and get back into MMA, so it didn’t faze me. I just used my hands, I’ve got a lot of other tools. I think with the boxing, people forget that I have 14 pro kickboxing and muay Thai fights. So that’s one of the main reasons why I didn’t use my kicks or my knees, because I’m pretty sure that my foot is pretty bad.” -- K.J. Noons explaining his decision to box Andre “Dida” Amado to victory
“I want to fight in a main event. I think I have been demonstrating tangible results in my fights last year, and I really want to be in a main event. When the time is appropriate, I will ask Mr. Sasahara to let me fight in one.” -- Ikuhisa Minowa following his victory over Jimmy Ambriz
“But opening with a Minowaman fight is like our tradition, I think people are so used to it by now. For me, there’s no one else I can depend on to open an event. An opening VTR of Minowaman, followed by Minowaman’s entrance, and then Minowaman’s fight -- I think it’s Dream’s perfected opening formula, I can’t think of any other way. Although… if there is an appropriate opponent for him, I will think about it. You may be right, I do want to see Minowaman as a main event fighter. That sounds really fresh.” -- Keiichi Sasahara
“I would love to fight him. I want to fight the best. I love his style. I love the way he smiles and his hands are up like this when he fights [laughs]. So yeah, he’s a great athlete, and I just want to fight the best. If the fans want to see it, I just want to put on the best fights. It would be a great fight. Whatever the fans want, whatever Strikeforce wants, whatever Dream wants.” -- Noons on Katsunori Kikuno