DREAM 7 to feature Featherweight Grand Prix; Yamamoto offered first-round bye

Japan’s Fighting & Entertainment Group (FEG) recently announced the schedule and future plans for their upcoming events in 2009.

First up will be DREAM 7, taking place on March 8 from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, and will feature the opening round of the 2009 Featherweight Grand Prix. There are 16 competitors for the tournament, with four fights in part one of the opening round getting underway in March.

The remaining four bouts will conclude the opening round on April 5 at DREAM 8 with the Grand Prix expected to wrap up at some point in September.

It’s important to note that DREAM’s featherweight class will be considerably different to what has come to be the norm in the U.S (145lbs). FEG expects their class to be somewhere around the mark of 138 lbs.

DREAM event producer Keiichi Sasahara says featherweight superstar Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto has been offered a first-round bye in the tournament in hopes that he will have recovered from a previous injury in time to compete.

Yamamoto (17-1) is in the midst of a 14-fight win streak, but has been plagued with injuries that have kept him on the sidelines since demolishing Rani Yahya at K-1 Premium Dynamite in December 2007.

He was expected to make his DREAM debut last July to face undefeated featherweight prospect Joseph Benavidez at DREAM 5. However three days before the fight while in training he attempted a flying knee maneuver and landed awkwardly on his right leg. This resulted in a partial tear of his anterior ligament that has kept him out of action ever since.

With the opening round not being completed until April 5, 'Kid' will have a considerable amount of time to prepare should he opt to participate.

Also in a bid to crown a new welterweight champion, DREAM has constructed a mini-tournament featuring only eight fighters and will conclude in July. The focal point will be Japanese mainstay Hayato "Mach" Sakurai - unless lightweight superstar Shinya Aoki moves up in weight to join him as he previously alluded to.

As well as the March and April shows, DREAM is looking to hold events in the months of May, July, September, October and December. The May and September shows will have primetime slots on Japanese broadcasting channel TBS. The remaining shows are likely to be broadcast at late night for fans in Japan.

Stay tuned for more updates to the DREAM 2009 schedule as they become available.

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