Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Canadian MMA fighter Denis Kang sees positives in UFC takeover of Pride

By Neil Davidson

(CP) - As Canada's top fighter in Pride, Denis Kang knows all about the Japanese-based mixed martial arts circuit.

And the 185-pounder from Vancouver believes Pride Fighting Championships will probably operate pretty much as before following this week's takeover by the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship. "I've enjoyed fighting there. I love fighting in Japan," Kang told The Canadian Press from Florida, where he trains with American Top Team in Coconut Grove. "Pride's always treated me great.

"I don't see why anything should change. I don't think UFC's going to do anything too different. Whoever they're going to leave in charge of Pride is going to want to make Pride succeed in Japan."

"Nobody wants to spend that much money and just throw it away. ...," he added Wednesday. "They're going to keep Pride as is in Japan and they're going to keep making money with it."

While there have been reports that Pride has had troubles in recent times, including losing a TV deal back home, Kang says it is still a big draw in Japan.

"It's huge thing. A 20,000 or 25,000 crowd is average or not so good. If it's a good card, it's going to be about 30,000 or 40,000."

UFC president Dana White said Tuesday that the UFC and Pride would operate separately, with top fighters from each facing off perhaps once a year in what he called the Super Bowl of mixed martial arts.

"I think it's beautiful," said American lightweight Jens (Little Evil) Pulver, who has fought in both Pride and the UFC. "We need to have some kind of Pro Bowl."

Kang could feature in such a marquee event. He made the final of Pride's Bushido Survival Finals in November, losing to Kazuo Mizaki via split decision - suffering a shoulder injury in the process.

He likes the idea of Pride versus UFC.

"You can compare it to WWE, Raw versus Smackdown, it's going to be team versus team," he said. "It adds an extra edge to the competition, makes it a little bit more interesting."

Kang is coming off a win, albeit a painful one over Chae Jung Kyu this month in South Korea, where he is a huge draw because of his Korean heritage.

Kang was born to a French mother and South Korean father on the island of St.-Pierre-Miquelon in 1977. The family moved to Vancouver in 1988.

He was also hurt in his most recent fight.

"Man, I broke the hand that I always break," he lamented.

Kang had surgery last week on his right hand to repair the fourth and fifth metacarpals. It's the third time in five years he has had surgery on the hand.

Kang tries to see a positive in the break, noting he was forced to fight one-handed after the first round once he knew he had damaged the hand.

"You always know. I broke it early, really early in the second round."

"After the fight, it was like man, again? It was really disappointing. I was bummed out. What can you do? I kept asking myself, 'Why? Why do I keep hurting myself?"'

The other good news is the hand is healing well.

"I can make a fist already, the swelling is almost gone, the stitches are still in but they're going to be coming out any time now."

Kang acknowledges his preparation for the fight was not ideal, saying his schedule was busy and perhaps he was travelling when he should have been training.

His strategy also left something to be desired.

"I think I could have finished him in the first round but for some reason I wanted to stand up with him. That's when I broke my hand," he said.

Kang, who has four fights left on his Pride deal, hopes to be back in action by August at latest.

Notes: WEC lightweight champion (Razor) Rob McCullough will defend his title against Rich (Cleat) Crunkilton on May 12 in Las Vegas ... Canadian John Alessio made US$9,000 for his WEC welterweight championship fight against Carlos Condit last Saturday. And US$2,700 of that went to taxes. Condit, who won the vacant title via second-round submission, collected US$20,000.


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