On Tuesday, Sakuraba's impromptu hospital visit not only dominated the mixed martial arts headlines, but also the national Japanese media outlets. According to reports, Sakuraba began his first hard sparring in preparation for his October 9 bout with Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures), which was scheduled as part of HERO'S 187-pound tournament. Sakuraba then began feeling dizzy and ill, and was taken to a hospital by friend, training partner, and PRIDE referee Minoru Toyonaga (Pictures).
Tanigawa spoke first, recapping yesterday's events to the media, and clarifying that Sakuraba would not compete as expected at the October 9 HERO'S card at Yokohama Arena.
While Sakuraba's August MRI scans following his damaging bout with Kestutis Smirnovas (Pictures) showed no brain damage or abnormalities, Tanigawa indicated that yesterday’s tests show that Sakuraba has sustained damage to his vertebrobasilar system, which is responsible for blood flow to the posterior of the brain.
It was stressed that Sakuraba does not have brain damage, but rather the vertebrobasilar damage has prevented proper blood circulation in his head and neck, stopping blood from reaching the base of Sakuraba's brain.
The damage, indicated Tanigawa, came as a result of repeated blows to the head and neck, dating as far back as Sakuraba's collegiate wrestling career. Tanigawa said he hoped that after a period of rest Sakuraba could get back to sparring comfortably, and indicated he would be happy to see the former PRIDE linchpin compete at K-1's Dynamite!! on New Year's Eve.
Logically, Sakuraba must be replaced in the HERO'S 187-pound tournament bracket. Tanigawa admitted he hadn't yet considered who would face Akiyama in the semifinals, and said that although a replacement had to be found that no one could adequately replace Sakuraba.
Sakuraba spoke after Tanigawa, and began by apologizing to the media and fans, as well as the Tokyo Broadcasting System, which airs K-1 and HERO'S events on Japanese television, and his opponent Yoshihiro Akiyama (Pictures). Sakuraba fielded questions from the media, and revealed that as Tanigawa suggested, he would like to be able to compete on December 31.
Sakuraba also said that while his current condition didn't affect him in his day-to-day life, if there were a treatment or operation that could correct his condition, he would take it in an effort to preserve his fighting career.