K-1 WGP ’06 Press Conference

1 Dec

by Monty DiPietro for K-1gp.net (2006-12-01)

TOKYO, December 1, 2006 — On this cool and clear afternoon, some 350 Japanese and international media representatives packed the ballroom at the New Takanawa Hotel to meet the eight finalists who will do battle tomorrow in the K-1 World Grand Prix ’06 Final, in pursuit of fightsports’ most prestigious belt and a first-prize purse of US$400,000.
A modern fusion of traditional martial arts disciplines, K-1 is among the world’s fastest-growing sports. The WGP Final is the culmination of a year of regional elimination tournaments, and follows K-1’s classic tournament format — four first-tier contests advancing a quartet of fighters to a pair of semifinal bouts, the two winners there clashing in the final. And so this year’s Grand Champion will have to prevail over three consecutive opponents to achieve victory.
When the bell rings tomorrow, these warriors will be all business, but at the press conference today the mood was relaxed, fun — reserve fighter Ray Sefo posing with opponent Melvin Manhoef’s team shirt; quarterfinal opponents Glaube Feitosa and Ruslan Karaev laughing like schoolchildren as they elbowed for position behind the Championship belt.
The favorite here is Defending WGP Champion Sammy Schilt of Holland. If the hulking Seidokaikan fighter is to repeat, he will first have to get past the formidable French kickboxer Jerome LeBanner.
A man of few words, Schilt managed to communicate quiet confidence when asked to comment on the fight: “I will show you a great fight, but for me, Jerome is just one of the three.”
Replied LeBanner, who, at the draw in September elected to make Schilt his first fight opponent: “My goal is to reach the title, and I wanted to climb the highest mountain first — and that is this guy, Semmy.”
The second quarterfinal will feature K-1’s only four-time WGP Champion, Ernesto “Mr Perfect” Hoost Holland. Appearing in his farewell tournament, Hoost will face the explosive German fighter Chalid “Die Faust.”
Hoost: “Of course, all things have to end some time and I have peace with that. I have been fighting for 22 years and that is enough. I trained hard and I feel good, it is my intention to become a five-time champion, and this is what I will go for tomorrow.”
Die Faust: “Thanks to my team I’m in great shape, tomorrow will be exciting, this is the best tournament and I have nothing to lose so I will give my best!”
In the first matchup of the second bracket, it will be Brazilian Glaube Feitosa versus Ruslan Karaev of Russia.
Feitosa: “I train with Kyokushin, and they trained me hard — it will be a great fight!”
Karaev: “It is a great Grand Prix and I want to do my best, especially since my brother, cousin, niece and her husband and their friends have all come here from Russia to support me!”
The last quarterfinal final bout will see’03 & ’04 WGP Champion Remy Bonjasky of Holland take on German kickboxer Stefan “Blitz” Leko.
Bonjasky: “It is good to be back, tomorrow will be a great day. I don’t have a lot to say but wish everyone good health, and let’s have fun!”
Leko: “This year I’m returning after some time away from K-1. I trained really hard, I’m in the best shape of my life and I am going for the title — good luck to everyone!”
In the first tournament reserve, it will be Peter Aerts of Holland and Japanese fighter Musashi; while Ray Sefo of New Zealand will take on Melvin Manhoef of Holland in the second reserve bout.
A Superfight will set Moroccan bad boy Badr Hari against K-1 Oceania ’06 Champion Paul Smolinski of Australia.
The K-1 World Grand Prix ’06 Final kicks off at 5 p.m. at the Tokyo Dome. It will be broadcast live in Japan on the Fuji TV network, in Korea on MBC-ESPN, in the Netherlands on SBS6, in Romania on ProTV and in Hungary on RTL Klub. InDemand will show the event in the United States, EuroSport and Canal+ in Europe — check with local providers for scheduling information. In total, the WGP ’06 will be broadcast in 129 countries
For official results and post-event coverage, visit the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp)

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