The countdown to K-1 World Grand Prix Final 2009 winds down, as this year's WGP finalists convene at Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan on December 5 to vie for the tournament crown.
With less than a week remaining until the event, the eight finalists in the GP have been busy with media duties and final preparation for their fights.
The reigning and three-time K-1 World Champion, Remy Bonjasky, looks to add the fourth crown to succeed the fellow Dutch K-1 legend, Ernesto Hoost, as the second fighter in K-1 history to achieve the milestone.
The notorious K-1 "bad boy," Badr Hari faces a potential marathon of grudge matches on Saturday night, as Ruslan Karaev, Remy Bonjasky, and Alistair Overeem are in the tournament finals. If he manages to dispatch Karaev, with whom he has split a victory in two, exciting wars in the past, he may collide with Bonjasky and Overeem in the semi-final and/or final, depending on the outcome of the quarterfinals.
In the controversy-marred final match of K-1 World GP 2008, Hari suffered a DQ loss against Bonjasky for erratic conduct -- Hari punched and stomped the already downed opponent during the instances of unsportsmanlike outburst. To add insult to injury, he was knocked out by the MMA fighter, Overeem, in a K-1 match at the 2008 Dynamite!!
Though Hari has since rebounded from the setback with back-to-back KO wins over Semmy Schilt and Zabit Samedov, he seeks the ultimate redemption in the GP title.
Alistair Overeem has an ambitious agenda ahead in K-1 and MMA. Empowered by his decisive victory over "Mr. K-1," Peter Aerts, Overeem looks forward to earning a GP title en route to becoming a self-proclaimed "double legend" in K-1 and MMA.
Elsewhere, former top 10 heavyweight MMA fighter, Sergei Kharitonov, will make his K-1 debut against Daniel Ghita in the tournament reserve bout. In his last bout, Ghita dropped a unanimous decision against Semmy Schilt in the WGP Final 16.
Notable quotes from fighters (via K-1 Official Web site) and the full lineup after the jump.
(Settling the score with Badr Hari)
"If it had of been a superfight, I'd have chosen (Badr Hari). But this time it's a tournament. It is important to think how effeciently you can be in the final match, rather than just thinking about a rematch against someone. I guess Badr chose Ruslan because he has fought against him before and knows what kind of fighter he is. Of course it's not an easy bout, but it makes it easier to fight. Every fighter has an opening round that is either difficult, or a little less difficult to fight. Because it's a tournament, the key is whether or not you can choose a fighter that is easier to fight, to put yourself in an advantageous position."
(His enmity toward Alistair Overeem)
"That was really too bad. For Alistair, it must be a huge honor to beat 'Mr. K-1'. I have trained with Peter and respect him as a person. He is great as a fighter too, and it hurts to see him beaten like that. He has contributed to K-1 so much, which has benefitted me me too. What is bad is that people who have just started watching K-1 might think that Peter is not that strong after only watching that match. It is like his 17 years of devotion has just been eradicated. It's important to beat him as a fighter, but that's not everything. I don't consider it auspicious that he came from a different field like MMA, and starts beating my K-1 colleagues. He shouldn't become the champion. For him it's like a part-time job, not his main business. But for us in K-1, it is our business. That's why I have to stop him."
(On his reputation as a party animal)
"People like to spread false rumors. They say I'd rather party thantrain. Sure, I like to party, but I train too! You have to see both sides to be fair. No one hates parties. But if you party everyday you'll ruin your body. If there's something to celebrate or if I have a light training schedule then I'll have some fun."
(Fighting Remy Bonjasky)
"I'm here to stop him. He gets points while keeping his guard up. I'm going to get points as well and KO him if I get a chance. I'm here to stop him. He gets points while keeping his guard up. I'm going to get points as well and KO him if I get a chance. (If he could have chosen any opponent he wished in the lottery) The name that comes to mind is Badr. He's easy to fight, so it's Badr. The point in this tournament is figuring out how to make it to the end. You can't just make it on guts, you have to use your head."
(On his quarterfinal opponent, Alistair Overeem)
"Last year, Badr Hari fought in the Dynamite!! immediately after his stint in the WGP and ended up getting knocked out. He faced an extenuating circumstance so I don't think (Overeem's KO of Hari at Dynamite!!) was amazing. Hari struggled against Remy in a fight that went to the decision. Also, Peter (Aerts) simply could not fight to the best of his ability. Though (Overeem) fights with a distinct rhythm, I will have no problem as long as I do not play his game and adhere to my style. I think he has been improving technically, but having seen three of his K-1 bouts, I am not intimidated by him at all."
(On his fast rise in K-1)
"Last year, I lacked experience in K-1. Though I did not have a good understanding of the K-1, I have since evolved as a fighter and am in an optimal place mentally. I am confident that I will become the champion."
(On his training)
"My conditioning and overall physical fitness are excellent. I have been working with a new coach to strengthen my balance and incorporated a new weight training program. (Regarding the practice of hitting mits held high) I am not doing that to prepare for specific opponents (i.e. tall fighters like Overeem and Schilt). It is easy to hit a low target and I don't feel much strain on the shoulder; by hitting mits that are positioned higher, I am able to strengthen my shoulder."
(On his quarterfinal opponent, Ruslan Karaev)
"Ruslan moves very well and is an aggressive, offensively oriented fighter. I have fought him twice, so I know how he fights. In his last fight (a decision loss against Hesdy Georges on October 17), he incurred some damage, so I want to see how well he has recovered when we step into the ring."
(On the imminent passing of the torch to the new generation of K-1 fighters NOTE: In the final eight, only Bonjasky and Schilt have won the WGP before and all the fighters except Bonjasky have made the final eight fewer than five times)
"Of course, it would be great for the passing of the torch to the new generation to materialize with my victory. If I win the tournament, my fans, family, teammates, and I will be happy. Also, if K-1 steers itself in a positive direction with my victory, it would be awesome."
(On his redemption after the controversial final match of the World Grand Prix last year)
"I regret that I lost control of myself in last year's tournament. I shouldn't have ended the fight in that fashion. I think I will have a great opportunity to atone for my misdeeds from last year and rectify all that has gone awry."
Opening fights: K-1 Rules / 3Min. 3R
Keiichi Samukawa vs. Ryuji Kajiwara
Jan Soukup vs. Tsutomu Takahagi
Singh Jaideep vs. Makoto Uehara
Reserve fights: K-1 Rules / 3Min. 3R Ext. 1R
Peter Aerts vs. Gokhan Saki
Daniel Ghita vs. Sergei Kharitonov
K-1 World Grand Prix 2009 Quarter finals: K-1 Rules / 3Min. 3R Ext. 2R
Ruslan Karaev vs. Badr Hari
Alistair Overeem vs. Ewerton Texeira
Jerome Le Banner vs. Semmy Schilt
Errol Zimmerman vs. Remy Bonjasky
Super fight: K-1 Rules / 3Min. 3R
Tyrone Spong vs. Keijiro Maeda