---First of all, welcome back (to Japan)!!
Yes, I've come back.
---It's been a while since you last fought in Japan. How was it?
It felt good. I didn't really notice before but when I was walking down to the ring, it was like I could hear each person's voice, the cheering hitting my ears, which was a mysterious feeling. The place felt like it was one, an atmosphere that can't be experienced at a UFC arena.
---Is Japan different?
It's different. I've said it many times before, but it's because Japan is my home away from home. The Japanese fans give respect to the fighters. They're the best fans in the world and I thank them for that. Their existence gives me power.
---In particular, would you say that the DREAM fans who are taking up where PRIDE left off are wonderful?
Of course, there's that too. The former PRIDE staff had many sleepless nights to construct the wonderful atmosphere and the many fans who have seen our ebb and flow for the last several years have come together again to cheer and boo and participate in creating the mood.. Having fought in Japan for ten years, that kind of arena can probably only be experienced at a PRIDE event.
---So the second time around, the name on the billboard now says DREAM and is the one to start things once again, right?
When I lost consecutive fights in the UFC, my spirit and body were hurt and I thought that I may not be able to rise again. It was like I really didn't want to go back home.. Then I thought that I should go back to Japan to regain my pride. I felt strongly that I needed to go back to Japan. I think it was the 52kg womens wrestling gold medalist at the Athens Olympics?
---What? You mean Saori Yoshida?
The girl who won about 110 matches in a row. Oh yes, she has the same name as the beloved Yoshida.
---What about her?
My manager Kenichi Imai showed me a documentary on her. There was an image of her after she recently lost a match when she she broke down crying in front of reporters. In order to sort out her feelings and regain her footing, she went back to her hometown to where her father runs a wrestling gym. The documentary was in Japanese so I couldn't understand the narration, but I just watched the images of her going back home and wrestling with the kids and seeing her origin. And then she slowly sorts out her feelings and stands back up.. After the documentary was explained to me, it was something that connected to my feelings now.
---That's very interesting.
It was a good documentary. Ken is always showing me those kinds of things. My fighting origin, everything about me, the thrill and chagrin of victory, the pain of injury, worries and fear, tears, everything - that's something that existed in the PRIDE atmosphere. And the tens of thousands of fans, the really important constituents, would assemble and complete the atmosphere. When I think of it now, I can only say that it was a miraculous atmosphere.
---A miracle? Now that I think about it, PRIDE's history was built from miracle after miracle.
It seems that way, right? It wasn't simply because it was MMA, or because it was in Japan. All the parts..it's difficult to explain in English.. I can't even explain to Croatians.. That atmosphere is something you have to experience yourself, a presence that can't be experienced anywhere else..English is difficult..it's a "live feeling".
May Mirko follow in the steps of Saori Yoshida!!
I for one would love to go see a big MMA event in Japan, UFC doesn't seem like it would have anywhere near the awesome atmosphere that a Pride event would of had.
Mirko will also be in a live chat session on April 9th at www.MMA-ID.com
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