2010 has arrived and the annual Japanese combat sports extravaganza is now official in the book. As par for the course, the fighters and FEG brass reflected on the event, 2009, and goals and outlook for 2010.
Dynamite!! 2009 saw a glorious end to Masato`s illustrious career and perhaps one of the last times Japanese MMA mainstay, Hidehiko Yoshida graces the ring. FEG president, Sadaharu Tanikawa and DREAM event producer, Keiichi Sasahara gave a glimpse of what DREAM has in store for 2010, as well as a sobering look on Shinya Aoki`s inflammatory antic.
* Tanikawa on Dynamite!! 2009: "The event drew a larger crowd than any other K-1 or DREAM event this year, but the crowd seemed to be evenly split among K-1 and MMA fans; it is partially attributable to the spaciousness of the arena, but the lack of unity between the two fanbase is a challenge we must face. In this event, Japanese MMA converged in Saitama Super Arena and there has been tremendous feedback so we would like to take this opportunity to once again make Japan the hotbed of the cultureof combat sports and establish its place in the world."
* Sasahara announced that the first DREAM event of 2010, DREAM 13, is scheduled for late March. The event will feature "big-name fighters (he refused to reveal their names) who will transition to welterweight and featherweight in order to seek challenges at new weight classes." He has not confirmed the Aoki-Kawajiri DREAM lightweight title match for the event, but would definitely like to make it happen in near future.
* Aoki confessed that he was "over-excited" in the wake of his technical submission victory over Mizuto Hirota and apologized for his unseemly conduct. Sasahara added, "I gave him a stern warning. I think it was all right for (fighters from DREAM and SRC) to prod and instigate each other before the fight; however, once the fight is over, there is no need to take sides. I stressed that to Aoki."
* Regarding Hirota`s broken arm, Sasahara stated that he does not hold Aoki accountable. The referee could have intervened or Hirota`s corner could have thrown in the towel beforeHirota`s arm broke; alas, as grotesque as the injury were, Hirota`s refusal to tap incurred a risk of serious injury.
* At the time of the press conference, no plan for another DREAM vs. SRC collision has been discussed.
* Sasahara plans to augment DREAM`s heavyweight division by adding Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia. While potential matchups for the two have not been discussed, they join a growing stable of heavyweights including Alistair Overeem, Semmy Schilt,Sergei Kharitonov, and possibly Josh Barnett.
* Injury report: Hirota -- broken arm, Kazuyuki Fujita -- severe concussion, Jong Man Kim & Hiroyuki Takaya -- broken right eye socket
* Tanikawa on Masato`s future: "Masato is not really a well-rounded individual who engages himself in many different pursuits. If he finds something that stirs his passion, he will pursue it for about ten years. I think it is his destiny to be involved in K-1. It is Masato who established a genre called K-1 MAX, and if K-1 MAX disappears, it detracts from his legacy. In soccer and baseball, for example, players from the past continue to receive critical evaluation because the sports continue to exist."
* While K-1 World Grand Prix and K-1 MAX remain the pillars of K-1, Tanikawa hinted at cultivating a lighter weight class (at either 60, 63, or 65 kg) and holding tournaments featuring the fighters from the new weight class.
* Tanikawa is "concerned" about Kid Yamamoto who suffered a decision loss to Sengoku featherweight champion, Masanori Kanehara -- a third consecutive loss in MMA and K-1 since returning from a prolonged hiatus. He added that, while Kid has shown a glimpse of his former self, he is clearly a different fighter from the wrecking machine that he once was.
* Regarding a rumor that the contract between SRC and Yoshida dojo -- which houses the Dynamite!! 2009 participants, Hidehiko Yoshida and Michihiro Omigawa -- has expired, Sasahara commented that, absent any contractual issue, he is willing to sign fighters from Yoshida dojo to DREAM.
* Hidehiko Yoshida, who bested the MMA debutant, Satoshi Ishii, in the Olympic judo gold medalist showdown, revealed that he planned to retire afterthe originally scheduled "Sengoku Raiden Championship" NYE show at Ariake Coliseum. Though he hinted that he may retire after one more fight, he did not disclose the timetable for the retirement. Regarding Ishii, he commented, "I landed some good punches but he was tough. I felt that, if he gains more experience, he will becomea great fighter."
* Satoshi Ishii was not available for post-fight interview. According to his manager, he headed straight to hospital after the fight out of shock for his loss and to treat the injuries he suffered in the bout against Yoshida.
Dream HW GP anyone? Fedor, AA, Tim Sylvia, Overeem and Barnett? Win?