HERO*S Done, DREAM Unveiled w/Cro Cop as Top Heavyweight Star

Mirko Cro Cop’s dreams have apparently come true, as he is heading back to Japan by way of the new DREAM mixed martial arts promotion born out of now-defunct K1 HERO*S and the people that used to run PRIDE FC before it was sold to UFC’s owners.

Promoted by Fighting and Entertainment Group (FEG, owners of K-1), DREAM will also involve former executives from Dream Stage Entertainment (the company that sold PRIDE to Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta III).

According to WrestlingObserver.com, Cro Cop was released from his UFC contract. He was at the press conference at the Hotel Metropolitan in Tokyo where DREAM’s first event was announced: ‚ÄúDREAM.1″ on March 15, 2008, at the Saitama Super Arena. It is expected that he will be in a match to crown a heavyweight champion at that show. Featured will be a 16-man lightweight tournament, with Shinya Aoki vs. J.Z. Calvan as one of the first round bouts. Six shows are being scheduled for 2008.

At the press conference were K-1 head Sadaharu Tanikawa and former PRIDE executive Keeichi Sasahara, as well as Kazushi Sakuraba, Masakatsu Funaki, Minowa-man and Kiyoshi Tamura, according to WrestlingObserver.com. Tanikawa made it official that HERO*S has closed. Kid Yamamoto, Caol Uno, Hayato Sakurai and Yoshihiro Akiyama will be other Japanese stars starting out with DREAM’s, and videotaped messages from PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko (a business deal with M-1 Global was announced) and Royce Gracie were shown, as they both say they will fight with the new group.

Here is a quote from Tanikawa, from an article on Sherdog.com:

“Of course Pride is gone now, as is Hero’s,” said FEG President Sadaharu Tanikawa before the 300-plus fans and media in attendance. “However, we’ve wanted to put on a new mixed martial arts event that would continue the great dream alliance of last New Year’s Eve. Promoting the event will be FEG, as well as TBS, while production will fall to the Yarennoka team.

“Heading the new promotion and matchmaking for us will be Keiichi Sasahara, while I personally will continue to do my best to support and produce K-1 events such as the K-1 World Grand Prix and K-1 Max. We want to put on cards that will be extensions of what was seen last New Year’s Eve.”

The DREAM weight classes will be:

Lightweight: 154 lbs / 70 kg
Welterweight: 168 lbs / 76 kg
Middleweight: 185 lbs / 84 kg
Light Heavyweight: 205 lbs / 93 kg
Heavyweight: More than 205 lbs / 93 kg

Here is the DREAM schedule for 2008, according to Sherdog:

March 15: Heiwa Dream.1
Lightweight Grand Prix 2008 Opening Round at the Saitama Super Arena

April 29: Olympia Dream.2
Middleweight Grand Prix 2008 Opening Round at the Saitama Super Arena

May 11: Heiwa Dream.3
Lightweight Grand Prix 2008 Second Round at the Saitama Super Arena

Mid June (TBD): Olympia Dream.4
Middleweight Grand Prix 2008 Second Round at Yokohama Arena, Japan or Korea

July 21: Heiwa Dream.5
Lightweight Grand Prix 2008 Final Round at Osaka Castle Hall

Late September (TBD): Dream.6
Middleweight Grand Prix 2008 Final Round at Saitama Super Arena

The DREAM Web site is here, and it includes stories on the press conference and the line-up for DREAM.1.