FEG announces 2009 DREAM schedule, participants for upcoming Featherweight Grand Prix

Japan’s Fighting & Entertainment Group (FEG) today announced during a press conference the schedule for their upcoming events in 2009 as well as the participants for the Featherweight Grand Prix that will commence on March 8 at DREAM 7 from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

DREAM’s featherweight class will be considerably different to what has come to be the norm in the U.S (145lbs). FEG did not yet list a specific weight, but expect their class to be somewhere around the mark of 138 lbs.

Conspicuously absent from the list of participants is featherweight superstar Norifumi Yamamoto . "Kid" was 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.

Then again, seeing him rub elbows with the WEC elite during one of Dana White's video blogs can't give DREAM event producer Keiichi Sasahara that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Also in a bid to crown a new welterweight champion, DREAM has constructed a mini-tournament featuring only eight fighters and will conclude on July 20. 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.

Here is the 2009 list of events for DREAM:

DREAM 2009 Schedule:
March 8th: DREAM 7 - Featherweight GP 1st Round (Saitama Super Arena)
April 5th: DREAM 8 - Welterweight GP 1st Round (Nippon Gaishi Hall)
May: DREAM 9 - Featherweight GP 2nd Round (Somewhere in Kanto)
July 20th: DREAM 10 - Welterweight GP Finals (Saitama Super Arena)
September: DREAM 11 - Featherweight GP Finals (Somewhere in Kanto)
October: DREAM 12 (TBD)
December 31st: Dynamite!! (Saitama Super Arena)

Featherweight Grand Prix Participants:
Masakazu Imanari
Hiroyuki Takaya
Takafumi Otsuka
Hideo Tokoro
Wicky Akiyo
Atsushi Yamamoto
Bibiano Fernandes
Micah Miller
Chase Beebe
Joe Warren
Kim Jong Won
SHOJI
DJ Taiki

Stay tuned for MMAmania.com for Grand Prix updates including first round match-ups as they become available.

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