It took a few tries, but all fighters are on weight for Dream 17 on Saturday. | Photo: Taro Irei
TOKYO -- All fighters, with the exception of Abel Cullum, made weight on their first attempt for Dream 17, which kicks off the promotion’s 2011 world bantamweight grand prix on Saturday at the Saitama Super Arena.
A 2009 Dream featherweight grand prix participant, Cullum weighed in at 62.8 kilograms (138.5 pounds), 1.8 kilos over the 61-kilogram limit for the bantamweight tournament at Friday’s official weigh-in.
“I’d like to apologize to my opponent for not making weight,” said a contrite Cullum, decked out in a sauna suit. “I’m so thankful to be back in Japan, and I’m looking forward to making weight and putting on a good show tomorrow. I am also truly honored to be on a ‘Fight for Japan’ card.”
“I’m aware of the crisis here and what everyone’s been going through. My heart is with everyone who has lost someone or something, and thanks to everyone who came out and made this show possible,” Cullum added.
Cool and unmoved, Cullum’s tournament opponent -- 2011 Japan bantamweight grand prix finalist Masakazu Imanari -- offered little in the way of protest or commentary on his opponent’s failure to make weight, promising only, “I will [be the] master tomorrow.”
While no time limit was announced for Cullum to make the weight, Dream officials indicated he had until the early evening, Japan time, to cut the excess. He later checked in at the 61-kilogram threshold.
Elsewhere, Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki promised a stronger performance than usual against former WEC champion “Razor” Rob McCullough, in light of his return from an extended training stint at Singapore’s Evolve MMA.
“I forced myself to train for two months, very far away from my friends and family. There’s no excuse tomorrow,” Aoki said. “My teammates are also fighting tomorrow, so I’d like to see all of us victorious.”
In a rematch of an extremely brief meeting in 2006 in which Joachim Hansen was disqualified for a knee to the groin of then Shooto 154-pound champion Tatsuya Kawajiri, the Japanese fighter promised a big surprise for his second go at Hansen.
“My theme for this fight is ‘reborn,’” said Kawajiri, who will make his debut at featherweight in this bout. “I want to show that I’m reborn at featherweight and though my fight is second to last tomorrow, I hope to put on a fight more exciting than the main event.”
The former Shooto 154-pound titlist also alluded to a special surprise he had in store for the fans. When asked for details, Kawajiri inadvertently gave away the secret.
“I’d tell you if I could, but the person who sings my entrance song [B-Dash’s ‘Water POW’] will be there tomorrow to sing my entrance song,” he said with a sly grin before suddenly realizing his slip. “Oh, I just totally gave it away. It’s not a surprise anymore.”
Saturday, Sept. 24
Saitama Super Arena
Shinya Aoki (153.9 pounds/69.8 kilograms) vs. Rob McCullough (153.9/69.8)
Tatsuya Kawajiri (143.1/64.9) vs. Joachim Hansen (143.3/65)
Caol Uno (143.1/64.9) vs. Takeshi Inoue (143.3/65)
Kazushi Sakuraba (167.1/75.8) vs. Yan Cabral (165.3/75)
Satoru Kitaoka (154.3/70) vs. Willamy Freire (153/69.4)
Kazuhiro Nakamura (184.7/83.8) vs. Gerald Harris (185.2/84)
Ikuhisa Minowa (191.8/87) vs. Baru Harn (253.5/115)
Dream Bantamweight World Grand Prix Quarterfinals
Hideo Tokoro (134.5/61) vs. Antonio Banuelos (134.5/61)
Bibiano Fernandes (134/60.8) vs. Takafumi Otsuka (134/60.8)
Masakazu Imanari (134/60.8) vs. Abel Cullum (134.5/61)
Yusup Saadulaev (134/60.8) vs. Rodolfo Marques Diniz (134.5/61)