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Hey, this is Sakuraba. Once again, I went and wrote an autobio.

This
time, I've tried to collect together stories from the first Dynamite!
in August 2002 up to Dynamite!! USA in June 2007. To start with
Dynamite and end with Dynamite - naturally this is a book of dynamite
contents from start to finish.

So much has happened these five years. I found myself putting in a lot
of training with Chute Boxe who, before that, was supposed to have
been my enemy. I became a free agent [he uses the term shozokusaki
which refers to a person's place of employment in Japan - the fact
that he didn't have one] as an athlete. Even the ring I step into
changed. In five years, the environment surrounding me went through a
complete change.

No matter where I went, the only thing that didn't change is the
cheers and warmth I receive from the fans. I encountered many times
where I re-realized how great it is [he uses arigatami which can mean
value/worth/etc. ("to reconfirm the value of havings fans" or
similar)] to have all the people that always support me.

To try to meet those people's expectations, I will try even a little


harder from here on out. I think life and fights are the same - if you
can win, you can also lose, there are good times, and there are bad
times. To continue is strength. The bad times don't last forever.
After that, inevitably, good will come. Balance in moderation between
relaxation and putting in all of your effort.

I'd be happy if you read this book thinking "I, too, will try to work
a little harder."

Kazushi Sakuraba
June 2007

Chapter One - "Injury"

Suddenly the world slipped into total darkness


My fight at the Tokyo National Stadium against Crocop

The time is August 28, 2002. The place, Tokyo National Stadium in
Yoyogi. K-1 and PRIDE concentrated their joint powers to put on the
first "Dynamite!". The venue had a capacity of about 100,000 people.
Certainly, a world top-class fighting event. My opponent is Mirko
Crocop, still undefeated in MMA. And of course the match is taking
place last, as the main event.

Last year, November 3, 2001, in my match against Wanderlei Silva,


indulgently nicknamed "PRIDE Gorilla-man", I broke a bone in my left
shoulder. I had no awareness at all at the time of it, but the fight
against Mirko, thinking time-wise, was my first comeback fight after a
10-month layoff after the Silva match. Thinking about it objectively,
nah, without even thinking about it, Mirko is a heavyweight fighter.
More than that, it isn't just that he's huge, he is a heavyweight who
has acquired skills. There is a difference of some kilograms in weight
between us. Why this card was put together, I literally have no idea.

To think of just one thing, In my column that appeared in a


pro-wrestling magazine, I wrote one sentence basically without
thinking about it, "Maybe I will go fishing to catch and eat a
delicious Mirko." The fight with Mirko Crocop was finalized just after
this column was put out. I had just written it as a joke, but now we
were really going to fight. Huh? Is this what they call paying for
one's mistakes? [he uses jigyoujitoku - getting one's just desserts,
suffering the consequences (of one's own actions), reap what you sow]
I see, if it's that, it can't be helped. I just have to do it. It
would've been better if I hadn't written too much.

The day of the event. I entered the stadium, and after some hours, the
ring "entrance material" [he uses neta, "material" like a comedian's
material] Vader helmet I asked for was brought stealthily to the
waiting room. The worst thing in a match is not getting punched in the
face, not getting kicked in the stomach, but having my entrance
material leaked before it's time. Before my ring entrance, if there
are rumors going through the crowd "I heard his entrance material is
gonna be xx," it's over. The fresh flavor of the material drops like
lead. I can't put a helmet in a bag that looks like a helmet, when I
use props that are easy to discern, I have to be very careful and
discreet when heading to the ring. Until the entrance music starts, it
must be kept a secret. I want the entrance materials, of course, to be
enjoyed at the entrance time.

As the sun sets into complete darkness and the lights inside the
stadium assault the darkness, we take the helmet and move to the
backstage area of the ring entrance gate. There is an electric current
at fighting events. There are times when, bit by bit, the pulse of the
tension builds inside the venue, peaking at once in the main event,
and other times when it alternates between small swells and abatements
as the event heads toward the end. The one thing I can say is within
one event, the peak is not revisited as often as that.

The pro world is not one of "might is right". The ones that rate [he
uses hyouka - evaluation/assessment] a match are not the fighters or
the producers, it is the fans that buy the tickets and come to see it.
Like, say that you win but the fans tell you "it was boring." To
ignore the existence of the fans and focus too much on winning or
losing is no good.

Maybe because I'm from pro-wrestling, the thought "In the main match,
you have to build the climax of the event" is imprinted in my head.
Will the fans get a rush they can feel through their bodies or will
they feel resigned to sadness. It is the job of a fighter in a main
event ot leave an impact that makes the fans say "I have to come see
this again".

Especially, in the case of a big match like this one, half the
audience are budding fans that have come to watch MMA for the first
time. To introduce such fans to a match in which you shut down your
opponent without motion, it will leave no memories for them. If it's
the choice of a sluggish match that I'll win by decision, I'd rather
choose to lose in grand fashion by KO.

In the fight between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Bob Sapp, the event
moved towards its first peak. The full impact of what a match is,
offense and defense, developed in a simple, easy-to-understand
composition of "Technician vs. Power Fighter", and the fans were
really pleased.

The second peak came with the semi-final shodown between Yoshida
(Hidehiko) and Royce Gracie. As I waited my turn, a flood of sound, a
mix of cheers and angry roars fell upon my ears. Royce discontent with
the ref stoppage was complaining to the judges. His whole family met
in the ring to hold a protest rally! In some way, the voltage in the
venue had hit its climax! Shit. There's no way that this level of
excitement can continue through the main event. Coming out after
something like this makes it really hard to fight. The current will
absolutely weaken. I somehow perceived my fate in the Mirko match. "
It's definitely gonna happen today."

Standby, I put on the mask and helmet. At last, time to make my


entrance. Wow, it really is Tokyo National Stadium, there is quite a
distance between the entrance gate and the ring. From here, the ring
is about 70 meters. The unique heat and humidity of an outdoor venue
in the summer wraps around my body.

To really stand in front of Mirko, maybe I should say "of course," he


is quite big. He probably only dropped to about 98 kilograms. I
would've liked for him to drop down to 80 kilograms for me, but for
Mirko who has little fat and lots of muscle, that would've been an
unreasonable topic to bring up. There should be a rule that heavy
fighters are forbidden from meat intake and muscle training until
after a fight.

After a long time off, I'm always hit with the question "what about
ring rust?" For me, a half-year or a year off, it doesn't really
influence my match. Perhaps it's because I'm always entering the ring
in training.

I had confidence from the beginning to be able to shoot for takedowns.


When you shoot in, there is timing to it, and if you can reliably read
that timing, in 10 tries you will definitely succeed 2 or 3 times.
Anyway, my shoot timing and Mirko's low kick timing were for the most
part the same. Mirko's low kick is fast and painful. He can also read
the timing well so that made it more difficult. I ate three good ones
and feeling pissed off I decided to return the kicks, all of which
were deflected. As should be expected, from a K-1 fighter.

Going after the shoot too-intently like a maniac won't move a match.
First, you have to use striking to scatter their focus. As he is a K-1
fighter, I have to say there really was no fear or sense of resistance
in throwing strikes.

For sure, Mirko's physical power is quite above mine. But, between us
it was not like the difference between an adult and a child. My
opponent is always human. A human being just like me. If you think
like that, you can stand and wage offense against any opponent.
Frustrate him and try to make an opening where it's easy to take him
down. He probably didn't think I would come in to strike. When a punch
came to his face, Mirko showed a surprised look as he fell on his
butt.
I wasn't afraid at all of his high kick. If you're frightened,"Whoa,
it's coming!", you fall prey to the high kick. I thought if I just
keep moving forward, the high kick won't hit. He rests his weight on
one foot and that make it easier to take him down. Mirko was on the
watch for the takedown, keeping a certain distance from me as he
fought. That wasn't the way Mirko usually fights. So I was able to
fight with confidence I wasn't going to eat a high kick.

The biggest trouble was the impenetrable difficult of our difference


in power. There was nothing I could do about this. Even to get him
down on the ground in a good position, he would quickly just explode
and return to standing. It was painful even being squeezed by his legs
in guard position, and it was taking a lot of effort to pass. It's
because of this that I hate fighting guys when there's a weight
difference.

Just one time it seemed like I could get an armbar. The rope was right
there. Maybe I could take the arm, maybe the ropes would get in the
way and I'd lose. Should I go for it. Should I wait. I couldn't decide
[he uses mayotta - lost/confused].

In the December 1997 UFC Japan event as well, against Marcus Conan,
and in the first fight in March 2001 against Silva as well, the same
sensation fell upon me. Just before someone approaches death, it is
said that their life until then comes back to them like a zoetrope [he
uses soumatou, a Japanese revolving lantern] inside their head. It was
really like that feeling. In the span of a few seconds, all kinds of
thoughts were running about in my head. "I'm sorry for pooping my
pants." "I'm sorry for stealing a bicycle." "I'm sorry for stabbing
my student in the ass with a saber." "Mother, father, please forgive
me for dying before you and leaving you with such unhappiness."

The problem was, while I was reflecting on my childhood crimes, the


chance disappeared. In the end of it, I didn't have a conclusion. I
didn't go for the armbar. After all, it takes too much time to look
back on my life from childhood until now. Maybe if it had been limited
to from when I graduated high school until now, it would've turned
into something. This zoetrope viewing, is there some way to shorten
the time it takes.

And the final stage of round 2, Mirko uses his guard to immobilze me.
Incredible power. For Mirko, who has been exerting energy since the
first round, he should be tiring. That may give me a chance to finish
the fight in the next final round. But the venue felt like a scene
[like a painted backdrop in a movie]; I wondered if the match was
boring. I heard the announcer say "one more minute!" Being careful
would be the safe thing, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. At any
rate, there's only a minute left, so just move, surge before going
into the rest. It's the main event.

Thinking that, I moved my hips forward, and went to strike Mirko. The
guard was opened, Mirko was using his legs to control me. In that
instant, something made a direct hit into my left eye. Light
disappeared from my field of vision.
to be continued