Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mac Danzig - Ready for his Pride Debut

By Justin Bolduc Saturday you’ll be fighting Hayato Sakurai at PRIDE 33. What do you know about him and what have you done to get ready for him?
Mac Danzig: Basically Sakurai is really hard to develop a gameplan for. A lot of guys have definite weaknesses in certain areas, but he’s really hard to pick apart. His stand-up is good, his throws are good, his ground game is very good; and he’s usually in good shape. The only times he hasn’t been in good shape is when he was fighting way out of his weight class, like when he fought Crosley Gracie at 181 pounds just to do it, those are the only times he’s looked out of shape. And on top of that he has the experience advantage on me; I’m used to have the experience advantage on most guys. So I know he has very good leg kicks and that has been something I have been susceptible to because of all the boxing I have done, I tend to stand a little bit angled which has always left me open to a lot of leg kicks, so I’ve been working on that a lot- not getting my legs hacked apart during the fight, and just countering with my punches and staying in really good shape. I have studied plenty of tape on him and it is just about going in there and forcing my gameplan on him.

Nokaut: What are your thoughts on PRIDE bringing in you and Nick Diaz with the intent of having you lose to their top Lightweight fighters?
MD: The way I look at it is PRIDE is trying to advance on the American mainstream picture in MMA and in order to do that they have to show the new fans that might be buying the pay-per-view that these are our champions, these are our top guys. Lets face it, their top guys in that weight class are Gomi and Sakurai; there are other great guys like Kawajiri and Hansen- who is also fighting on the card, and Gilbert [Melendez], he’s an American that’s popped up over there; so they’ve got a whole lot of good guys there. But they want to show, by putting in good American fighters that are probably underdogs in the fights that this is who we’ve got and they are really good. I think it will backfire on them though, seriously I’m not dumb, I know I’m being brought in there as an underdog and to be honest with you I think styles make fights; and even though on paper it might look like Gomi is more accomplished than Nick [Diaz], I think is a good style match-up and I think Nick might pull out an upset, it’s very probable that he’ll beat Gomi, in my opinion. In the other fight they are having [Joachim] Hansen fight Jason Ireland, who I’ve fought- he’s a really tough guy; but I’m not sure if he’ll be able to beat Hansen. So you take what they give you and if I was offered any other fight in PRIDE I would have taken it, it doesn’t matter. I would have liked to fight a more mid-ranged guy for my first fight in, but if I beat Sakurai that puts me as a top 5 fighter in the world, which is better in my opinion.

Nokaut: Yeah, and if you lose its not really like a big deal either because it’s Sakurai.
MD: Exactly. I fully expect to win but I’m not so delusional that I think it will be an easy fight. It is one of those things where I was given an opportunity and I am going to go with it 100%.

Nokaut: In Japan the audience is very quiet, you can hear a pin drop; but here in America the crowd is very loud and rowdy. Do you think that will have any effect on Sakurai?
MD: It might, I think that is a good point you bring up there. Who knows if that had anything to do with his loss to [Matt] Hughes, when it comes down to it Hughes is just a tough fight for anybody, especially if you can’t stop his shots. I’ve heard that Sakurai had a really bad back problem and all kinds of stuff going into that fight. I really don’t think he could have beat Hughes that night anyway, he’s tough like that. But looking at it, as far as the crowd goes that might bother him a little bit, but man he’s such a veteran, he’s had over forty fights. I’m not going to think about anything like that, if it bothers him that’s fine. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve had a whole lot of fights in front of American crowds too, but none of them have been as big as this one is going to be, none of them have been a completely sold-out, packed stadium. So I might have to deal with the same type of thing, but I plan on going in there and being focused and I plan on him having the same focus and mindset and not worrying about it, and we’re just going to go to war.

Nokaut: In his career he has fought a lot more than just in PRIDE, like when he fought Hughes and his fights in Shooto. But in America the rule changes aren’t very minor, like the kicks and stomps to a downed opponent and the way rounds are judged. Do you think that gives you any advantage since it is line with a standard fight in America?
MD: Yeah I’ve thought about that a little bit, it might be to an advantage to me. But I haven’t really seen Sakurai as one of those guys that relies on a lot of the stomps, he’ll do them and he’ll soccer kick if its there, but he’s more of a straight-up shoot style fighter, and with really good kickboxing. So I don’t think that will play too much of a part in it. I really think, honestly that if it doesn’t go to a decision that it will end standing and will come down to that can dish it out and who can take it. He’s had a good chin in the past, but this last time that he fought Gomi he looked like he might be a little susceptible. If I’m able to tap his chin I think I can get the win. With someone like Gomi on the other hand might have a little more problems with the rule changes, but not Sakurai.

Nokaut: How many other fights have you been offered with PRIDE?
MD: When I first signed a contract with King of the Cage, which was about a year ago or more, it was to my understanding that I would get fights in PRIDE as long as I did well in [KOTC] - and it took a long time for that to pan out. But as far as PRIDE goes I’ve signed a two-fight contract with them and it is non-exclusive so I can fight this fight and whatever happens, happens. Then I can go back and win my title back in [KOTC] if I feel like it, and I can go back and fight in Strikeforce or any of the other organizations that have offered me good fights, then go ahead and fight for PRIDE again during the year. But it is to my understanding that if I do beat Sakurai impressively or have a very good fight they will probably change the contract so that I can fight in the Lightweight Grand Prix. So it is all tentative, we’ll see what happens after the 24th. Regardless of any of that, I do have a two-fight contract with them and I’m happy, it is what I’ve been working my whole career for.

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