DREAM 10 saw the ascent of a tournament underdog, resurgence of Paulo Filho, Japanese debut of the infamous JT Money, and a few other noteworthy happenings.
Following are the selected excerpts from the post-fight interviews culled from the DREAM official website.
Much to the fans’ consternation, Shinya Aoki and Vitor Ribeiro threw a wayward wrench in the expectation by staging an unmemorable stand-up exchange for much of the fight.
Immediately after the fight, Aoki grabbed the mic and beamed, “isn’t muay thai interesting!?” The fans and media remained unconvinced, and in the post-fight interview, he and Ribeiro offered an explanation on what had transpired in the ring.
Japanese MMA legend and the pre-fight favorite to snatch the Grand Prix title, Hayato “Mach” Sakurai reflects on his disappointing upset loss to the eventual winner, Marius Zaromskis and comments on his weigh-in debacle.
“I focused on winning. It is fighting, and even if everyone gripes that it was boring, winning was my priority.”
Was striking match part of his plan?
“It was a MMA fight. It was not a striking match — that everyone sees it as such is nonsensical. The fight unfolded as it did due to a confluence of many factors. We wanted to initiate the grappling action, but in this particular fight, it just turned out the way it did.”
Introducing striking into his arsenal:
“Though Shaolin has said that he blocked the kicks with his arm, I actually kicked his arm. In the fight, I utilized three types of kicks. I followed what (Shooto legend and the founder of Paraestra Tokyo, where Aoki trains) Yuki Nakai had told me, and that is why I believe I was able to win.”
Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro
“I thought I put on a good fight. I trained diligently in muay thai and learned to check kicks with my elbows. I effectively blocked all the kicks in the fight, so I cannot comprehend how that could have backfired on the judges’ scorecard.”
Did he expect a stand-up fight?
“I tried to take the fight to the ground, but Aoki did not demonstrate any initiative in that regard. I do not know why he did not choose to fight on the ground this time while resorting to ground fighting against other opponents. Aoki refused to engage whether I tried to stand up with him or fight him on the ground — I am not content with the outcome. The media regards him very highly but I think that it is unnecessary to elevate him so much. Maybe I need to change my style. I wonder if I would have won had I struck like Aoki did.”
Aoki threw so many kicks to his right arm but was he hurt (NOTE: According to the text, Ribeiro held the mic with his left hand during the interview)?
“I am not hurt at all. In fact, I saw Aoki icing his legs.”
Would he like to face Aoki in a re-match?
“Definitely. I would like to fight him again if we could be matched up again at DREAM 11. The Kawajiri vs. Cavalcante at DREAM 9 was a very good fight, and I hoped to make this fight just as good. If I can fight him again, I will make it a good one like Kawajiri vs. Cavalcante.”
“In the end, I was able to rock him with the crescent kick, which everyone expected me to unleash at some point, so I am very satisfied with the outcome of the fight. I readily felt that I had hurt him with that kick. Even though he did not grimace, the damage I inflicted was palpable. When I mounted his back, he seemed enervated so I proceeded to pound him out, confident of the victory.”
Is he confident about thriving on his unique kyokushin karate-based style?
“I believe that it is still in a developmental stage. I am confident that I can continue to improve, and where I stand now is akin to that of a white belt in a martial art. Everything has just begun, and I will continue to utilize a wide array of techques in MMA fights to achieve concrete results. Thus, I look forward to continue cultivating my style.”
Thoughts on facing higher-caliber opponents in future:
“Like I stated in the fight trailer, I respect Shinya Aoki very much. Aoki’s modus operandi is to neutralize his opponents’ strength while utilizing his own to garner submission. It is incredible. If his submission artistry were to collide with my highlight-reel strikes — I think it will be a very suspenseful battle.”
Jesse “JT Money” Taylor
Thoughts on his fight with Dong Sik Yoon:
“I am very glad that I won. I want to continue to showcase my skills in Japan. Though I am disappointed that my opponent sustained an injury, I want to become a fighter who can achieve victory in a variety of ways.”
This fight took place a mere week after his last fight — when does he expect to fight next?
“I have been fighting at a rigorous pace as of late, but maybe it is beneficial that way since I can keep myself out of troubles (laughs).”
In the fight trailer, he was billed as “a troublemaker who has been expelled from UFC.” Is there any other aspect of himself as a fighter or individual that he wants the fans to focus on?
“I have been labeled as such from my stint with the UFC, but since I have two kids now, I want to strive to be the best fighter that I can be while earning more money. If people want to see me fight more in Japan, I will be eager to.”
“I thought I was going strong, but I lost my composure after suffering the cut. (Upon inspecting the cut) the doctor told me that my bone was exposed. Though I pleaded to continue by telling him that I would defeat my opponent within the first round, I probably would not have been able to proceed to the final regardless of the win, due to the depth of the cut. So, in the end, I just went for the broke. I had a good strategy for the fight, but if I had continued throwing low kicks, I would have injured my shins. My concerns regarding the injuries going into the final did make me a little hesitant.”
Did the struggle with weight cut affect his performance?
“Honestly, I feel that I gained some muscle going into this fight. However, I did not expect to struggle to cut the weight. I managed to make the weight but I may have emboldened my opponent in the process.”
What, then, ultimately led to his upset loss?
“I absorbed too many punches. However, getting punched was inevitable, as it could have been a divinely ordained challenge (laughs). I landed some good punches as well, and sensing that I had hurt him, tried to knock him out. But I fell short and lost my composure. The pressure of winning the Grand Prix did not affect me. That last high kick — I did not see it coming at all. It completely caught me by surprise. I feel that, having tried to go for broke in the end, I lost my wits.”
“I thought I fought a good fight. Upon reflection, I feel that I had the upper hand in the first round. In the second round, I did not want the fight to go to the judges’ decision so I went out looking for submission. However, my inexperience showed. The decision could have turned out in my favor, but I think I lost by a very small margin.”
What would have happened had he won and faced Marius Zaromskis in the final match?
“I think I could have won the Grand Prix. I actually had a game plan for him. After watching the final match, I feel that I could have controlled him with my jiu jitsu. Had I faced him in the final, I would have been able to dictate the fight without absorbing his strikes.”
“I am grateful that I got to fight on a grand stage called DREAM. My opponents were very tough, but today was my day. I do not know if I will come out the better man the next time I face Hayato Sakurai or Jason High. I would like to just continue to give my best in my fights.”
In the pre-fight poll, hardly anyone gave him a chance to come out on top. How does he feel about having staged the upset?
“That’s a good question (laughs). I have trained very had for this Grand Prix but it is important to point out that no one could have declared with certainty who would ultimately win, since every fighter in the GP is very tough.”
Did he throw that combination he used to knock out Jason High on a fly?
“I practice many different striking combinations during training but in the actual fights, I can usually piece together combinations with spontaneity.”
Thoughts on becoming the most famous Lithuanian fighter after winning the Grand Prix:
“I am so happy that I feel as if I am wandering in my dream. The realization of my victory has not quite sunk in yet but I believe it will eventually after I go back to the hotel and relax. I am content about getting the victory for my fans in Lithuania. Also, since I now live in London, I would like to thank my fans in London as well.”
Tags: Andre Galvao, DREAM, DREAM.10, Jesse Taylor, Marius Zaromskis, Mixed Martial Arts, Shinya Aoki, Vitor Ribeiro