Dynamite Notebook: Aoki Apologizes & Overeem Plans on Fedor

By Tony Loiseleur Jan 1, 2010
SAITAMA, Japan -- Dream lightweight champion Shinya Aoki not only turned in his most brutal submission Thursday but also his most controversial behavior.

After breaking the arm of Sengoku champion Mizuto Hirota with a hammerlock, the Dream lightweight champion followed it with a middle finger to Hirota, his corner and the audience. Aoki’s actions drew the ire of FEG and Dream officials, as Dream event producer Keichi Sasahara said Aoki was sternly reprimanded for his post-fight celebration.

Although Aoki apologized, his attitude indicated he was not particularly repentant.

“After my fight, I was excited, and so I did something rude that I should apologize for. But that showed just how excited I was over that fight,” said Aoki, despite stating prior to Dynamite that Hirota was a “virtual unknown.”

“When I had his arm behind his back, I could feel it popping,” Aoki said. “I thought, 'Well, this guy's pride just won't let him tap, will it?' So without hesitation, I broke it. I heard it break, and I thought, 'Ah, there, I just broke it.' I was stopped afterward, but even if I hadn't been, continuing to break it more would have been fine by me.”

Sasahara reported Friday that Hirota suffered a fractured humerus.

“Dream got a solid win [with my victory over Hirota], so that was good, but we finished off Sengoku. Although Sengoku was already finished from the very beginning,” Aoki chided, twisting the knife.

Aoki claimed his killer instinct came from a sense of duty to Dream and its management company, Real Entertainment.

“When Sasahara tells me to go and do something, I do it, and that's how I live my life,” he said. “If Sasahara tells me to go to Strikeforce and take them out or 'Go and kill that guy,' I'm going to do it. Even if he tells me to go take out Tanigawa, I'd do that too.”

As for his 2010 plans, Aoki looks forward to the promised bout with Tatsuya Kawajiri, pointing to March as the earliest date.

“I received a challenge from [Kawajiri], and so without telling him to shut the f--- up, I accept the challenge and look forward to our fight,” said the colorful grappler, who added that he would like to have seven to 10 fights in 2010.

Overeem Sets His Sights on Fedor

Having fulfilled his kickboxing obligations for the year, Strikeforce's long-absent heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem says he is finally ready for Fedor Emelianenko.

“I want to fight Fedor in May or June, so he's my primary target from now on. I'll be training for him only,” proclaimed Overeem, who cited the prospect of a May-June date as one he is currently negotiating with Strikeforce.

When reminded that Strikeforce's current plans have them holding an April event on CBS and that perhaps the Fedor title fight should happen in that month instead, Overeem contradicted his previous statement on having another K-1 bout before facing “The Last Emperor.”

“In March, I have other obligations with K-1, so I think April is a little too close to do such an important fight,” he said. “So March, K-1; May-June, Fedor.”

Sakurai and Gono on Friends Fighting

While the Western fight world is wrangling with the issue of friends fighting one another, Japanese veterans Hayato Sakurai and Akihiro Gono said their Dec. 31 bout was their duty as fighters despite being longtime friends out of the ring.

“I may be overthinking this, but I think that ‘Mach’ is better than Aoki. His ground game is so good, and he did take it easy on me on the ground in this fight, so I don't think he was at 100 percent today,” Gono said of Sakurai, whom he armbarred in the second round.

“Ever since my fight with Gomi, for some reason, I've always lost against my friends,” said Sakurai when asked if his friendship with Gono played any factor in his performance. “I don't really know the reason, but I'd like to someday find out why that is.”

Gono was also asked when he and Sakurai would have a drink and discuss their fight.

“He’s a bit of a boring guy these days,” Gono joked. “He doesn't drink or go out much anymore. But whenever he's ready and asks me, any time will be good for me.”

Manhoef Looks Toward Lawler

Likening the loss of Mike's Gym -- the Amsterdam-based gym of Mike Passenier, which burned down earlier this month -- to the loss of a home, Melvin Manhoef admitted to worries that his compromised training would not bode well against Kazuo Misaki. Despite the unfortunate ending that resulted in an official protest by Misaki, Manhoef's fears of being unable to properly work on his grappling were allayed in his quick TKO victory.

“I was worried about that,” Manhoef said. “I read that he would try to throw me to the ground because I have to learn [to grapple]. I think that this year I have to really practice a lot on the ground because I don't want to [be caught] in submissions anymore, you know?”

Escaping unscathed and otherwise healthy, Manhoef looks forward to a prospective fight with Robbie Lawler in a January Strikeforce.

“If the fight's going to happen, I'm going to prepare myself good,” he said. “My trainer and my team will find something to help me prepare for the fight. I heard Robbie is a banger and not a grappler, so maybe I won't have to go on the ground. We can just do what we do best.”

Dream's 2010 Plans

Sasahara said that the 2010 calendar would mirror 2009 with six planned Dream events and one New Year's Eve event, starting in the latter half of March. Of particular note, however, was a proposed overseas event that Sasahara offered no details on, though he intimated that an Asia-based Dream would be most likely.

Sasahara also commented that with Aoki's recent win that American fans are likely similarly impressed with the Dream lightweight champ, and he is thus looking forward to sending him to Strikeforce.

“We've got a good relationship with them, and whether he fights for Strikeforce or fights for the title first, I don't know. I haven't really thought of it yet,” Sasahara said. “I think that with Aoki's fight today, American fans will embrace this illusion of Aoki. So it's good timing to send him to the U.S. now.”

As for going in reverse and bringing fighters over from the U.S., Sasahara indicated that though Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski could not be accommodated for Dynamite, they could end up in Dream as early as the March event.

“Maybe after March, or even for the March event, I'd like to invite them over,” he said. “They've never fought in Japan yet, so I'd like for them to make their way over.”
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