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Mach Sakurai Ready For DREAM Semis; Hopes to Fight GSP In Future



At one point in 2007, it seemed as though Hayato "Mach" Sakurai was ready to ply his trade across the globe in the UFC. But the Japanese MMA star never quite made it. For various reasons, Sakurai stayed in Japan, where he remains one of the stalwarts of the nation's MMA scene. In the DREAM welterweight Grand Prix quarterfinals in April, he scored a dominant TKO win over Shinya Aoki (video above).

On Monday, Sakurai (35-8) will square off in a semifinal bout with Marius Zaromskis, a native Lithuanian with a 9-2 record. The winner will meet the Jason High-Andre Galvao victor later in the night for the tournament championship. The event will air on HDNet.

Sakurai recently answered some questions about the fight and his career for FanHouse via email and through an intrepreter.

Mike Chiappetta: Have you seen Marius Zaromskis fight enough times that you understand his style?
Mach Sakurai: His fight style is unbelievable and astonishing. It is suprising that he did a back flip during the fight. He has great potential. I will just do my best.

Do you feel your win over Shinya Aoki makes you the tournament favorite?
Well, I do not think it made any difference.

Were you surprised Aoki moved to welterweight to fight in the Grand Prix? Did you feel as though you were representing all the welterweights in fighting him?
Of couse I was suprised Aoki moved to welterweight. Since Aoki was talking about things like that before the fight, I gradually and naturally felt that I was representing the welterweights.

You could end up fighting twice on Monday. How do you prepare for a possible second opponent when you don't know which man it will be?
I am preparing to be able to give tough fights. Since I do not know whom I am going to face at the final round, I do not have any special plan.

Would you rather face Jason High or Andre Galvao in the finals and why?
Either of them is fine. In order to become a champion, it does not matter to me who I need to face on the way.

What would it mean to you personally to win the welterweight Grand Prix?
It would be a great accomplishment for me at this stage of my career.

What would your next career goal be after winning the Grand Prix?
To be defending champion.

In 2005, after going 5-6 over your last 11 fights, you came to the U.S. to train with Matt Hume, and many say that was an important development in regaining the success you previously had. What did you learn there and was it indeed a turning point for you?
Of course, Matt was a great coach and it was very imporatant to me. I think it was really my turning point and it helped in improving myself.

At one point in 2007, it seemed as though you were signed with UFC and even appeared at a show to announce that you'd fight for them. Why did that never happen?
UFC is a wonderful event and any fighter is interested in the organization. I just chose to work with the great staff of people that promoted PRIDE. It was just because of my Japanese spirit.

Do you think you will ever fight in the UFC again (Sakurai fought for the organization once in 2002) or do you see your career staying in Japan?
There is a chance I might fight for the UFC as well as any other organizations. No one knows the future.

How do you think you would do against top UFC welterweights like Georges St. Pierre, Thiago Alves or Jon Fitch?
They are all great fighters. The only way to find out is to fight them.

What opponents do you hope to fight before you retire?
Georges St. Pierre and also champions.