TOKYO, February 13, 2008 -- It's a dream come true for Japanese mixed martial arts fans -- one the world's premier mixed martial arts fighters, Mirko CroCop, will be returning to Japan to fight in a newly-created, star-studded production. "DREAM," organized by K-1's governing body FEG, which will replace the organization's HERO's production, it was revealed today in a full-house press conference at the Hotel Metropolitan Edmont in downtown Tokyo. Six DREAM events are already scheduled for 2008, with CroCop possibly participating as early as March 15.
"I'm happy to be back in Japan," said the Croatian fightsport star, interspersing his speech with Japanese-language remarks to the delight of the 500 fans in attendance, most of whom raced to the press conference on just hours' notice. "I didn't like the cage very much, and now I'm looking forward to fighting here again. I feel that Japan is like my second home, this is where I want to fight!"
DREAM comprises five weight classes: Lightweight (under 70kg/154lbs), Welterweight (to 76kg/168lbs), Middleweight (to 84kg/185lbs), Light Heavyweight (to 93kg/205lbs), and Heavyweight (over 93kg/205lbs). In 2008, bouts will be held in all weight classes, and a special Grand Prix three-stage elimination tournament series will be conducted in the Lightweight and Middleweight classes.
Also in attendance at today's press conference were some 150 media representatives from Japan and overseas, and 22 other contracted DREAM fighters, including Japanese stars Kid Yamamoto and Sakuraba. Meanwhile, Royce Gracie and JZ Calvan participated via video hookup.
FEG's Sadaharu Tanikawa characterized DREAM as an expansion of the recent successful union of the "K-1 Dynamite!!" and "Yarennoka" New Year's Eve fightsport extravaganzas, and introduced Keiichi Sasahara, who will be The DREAM Event Producer.
It was announced that the inaugural, "DREAM.1" event will be held Saturday, March 15 at the Saitama Super Arena, just north of Tokyo. At this time, it is confirmed that JZ Calvan will meet Shinya Aoki in Saitama, as Stage One of the Lightweight Grand Prix series sees 16 combatants square off in a one-match elimination format. "DREAM.1" will be broadcast live across Japan on the TBS network and 28 affiliates.
For up-to-date fighters and scheduling information, as well as official results and comprehensive coverage on all DREAM events, visit the K-1 Official Website (www.k-1.co.jp/k-1gp)