Hirota, sporting a blue Mohawk with pink highlights, promised to supplant Kitaoka at a pre-fight press conference for Sengoku “Ninth Battle” on Saturday at Shinjuku’s Sunroute Plaza. The two will collide in the main event on Sunday at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
“His hair makes him look a little bit like some bird from a southern island -- like a bird that likes to flap its wings or something,” Kitaoka said. “I’m going to pull those wings off.”
Hirota expects a different outcome.
“I will trust in my fists and knock Kitaoka out,” he said.
When asked why he chose to dye his hair so uniquely, the Cage Force stalwart pointed to the main event stage.
“I’m going to be in the main event,” he said, “so I wanted to be a little flashy.”
The lightweight title bout was made official at the pre-fight press conference. On behalf of Yukihiko Inoue with Sengoku’s commission, Tomoaki Fukuda had both men sign the official dedication certificate before gathered media.
“With every essence of my being,” Kitaoka said, “I will do whatever it takes to take the submission win over Hirota.”
Though he looked haggard -- as he usually does after his hard weight cuts -- the champion claimed he felt good it was over and would be prepared to fight soon.
“I’m the kind of person who isn’t alive unless I’m in the ring,” Kitaoka said. “Please note that my specialty is not foot locks. I’m an MMA fighter, and I specialize in MMA. I’m a champion in MMA, not a champion in foot locking.”
Featherweight Semi-Finalists Hopeful, Reserved
Not much was said between the semi-finalists in the Sengoku featherweight grand prix, as all four kept their pre-fight comments reserved and focused on the championship.
Tournament favorite Hatsu Hioki turned to platitudes.
“I will believe in myself and put my very best into the fight,” he said.
Hioki’s opponent, Masanori Kanehara, was more vocal about the prospect of squaring off with the former TKO champion.
“I am happy that, finally, the day has come to fight against Hioki,” he said. “The strongest in the tournament won’t win the tournament tomorrow, but he who wins it all will become the strongest.”
Undefeated featherweight King of Pancrase Marlon Sandro was all business.
“As a representative of my team, I came a long way from Brazil to Japan, not to play around but to win,” Sandro said. “I’ll prove that by becoming the champion.”
Sandro's opponent, rising featherweight star Michihiro Omigawa, was brief but respectful of the dangerous Nova Uniao product.
“I appreciate the opportunity to face an undefeated Sandro,” the UFC veteran said. “I’ll keep to my style and will be victorious all the way to the championship.”
Hornbuckle Aims to Play Spoiler
Dan Hornbuckle, primed for his second run in Sengoku, plans to spoil the return of Pride Fighting Championships and UFC veteran Akihiro Gono.
“I flew to Japan to ruin Gono’s homecoming,” Hornbuckle said. “‘The Handler’ is going to make Japan his new home for fighting.”
Clad in sunglasses, a hat and a casual summer kimono, a happy-looking Gono seemed all but oblivious to Hornbuckle’s intentions.
“It’s been a while since I’ve fought in Japan, so I apologize for not being able to read the atmosphere here by showing up in inappropriate attire,” the Grabaka showman joked. “I’ll cut my comments short and say that I look forward to entertaining everyone with my entrance tomorrow.”
Gono’s teammate, Kazuo Misaki, was understandably less jovial.
“This time is marked by the feeling that I am just one of several challengers for a chance at the [middleweight] title,” he said. “I’ll give it my best to the very end.”
When asked about his reactions to the suspension recently handed down to him by the Sengoku commission, Misaki proved elusive.
“I haven’t really thought about it at all,” Misaki said. “My future is not set right now. However, I did everything I had to in preparing for this fight.”
Misaki’s opponent, Kazuhiro Nakamura was all but ready to throw down with the 2006 Pride welterweight grand prix winner right then and there.
“I really want to cross swords with him,” Nakamura said. “I can cut him down, but I am also prepared for the event that he cuts me down. Let’s have a fight like that tomorrow.”
Sengoku “Ninth Battle”
Sunday, Aug. 2
Saitama Super Arena
Sengoku Lightweight Championship
Satoru Kitaoka (154.1) vs. Mizuto Hirota (154.3)
Sengoku Featherweight Grand Prix
Michihiro Omigawa (143.1) vs. Marlon Sandro (142.6)
Hatsu Hioki (143.3) vs. Masanori Kanehara (143.3)
Reserve - Chan Sung Jung (142.9) vs. Matt Jaggers (142.4)
Kazuo Misaki (183) vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura (183)
Kazuyuki Fujita (248) vs. Blagoi Ivanov (242.5)
Akihiro Gono (167.6) vs. Dan Hornbuckle (166)
Eiji Mitsuoka (154.3) vs. Clay French (154.1)
Yoshihiro Nakao (221.1) vs. Mu Bae Choi (241.2)
Takeshi Numajiri (132.1) vs. Ryosuke Komori (132.3)
Toru Harai (143.3) vs. Shigeki Osawa (143.3)
Ikuo Usuda (154.3) vs. Koji Ando (153.7)