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Global Training Report


Interview with

Funaki Masakatsu

After loss to Rickson Gracie

From Shuukan Puroresu,  June 11, No.980

Translated by Kondo Yoko

Funaki:  Well, thatfs all (with a smile).  Thank you very much for everything.  Ifve had a very good time for 15 years.  Every memory came to my mind today.  I could see many familiar faces like Mr. Fujinami, Mr. Fujiwara, and Mr. Hashimoto in the middle of the fight from the ring.  Moreover nothing else made me happier than warmth of my fans. And one more happy thing is that we, fighters of Pancrase, could gather together again back stage after the fight. 

Regarding Rickson, he is a strong fighter.  However, he might have a difficult fight or a time to experience a defeat after all in the process of fights with various kinds of fighters in future.  I hesitate a little to say that, but not many men over 40s can have such a high concentration like him.  In that sense, he can be called one of the strongest fighters.

I am already 31 years old.  One feeling I've had for a long time is that I donft want to hang around in the kakutougi [ vale tudo, NHB, MMA ] world if I can't compete with the best.  I think gkakutougih is a special world which requires some achievement when you are young and vigorous, so I didnft want to drag myself in there until in my 40s or 50s.

From one or two years ago, I have been thinking of trying to build something on the results of what I have done so far, while keeping on fighting in Pancrase.  Among many rumors and challenges circulating, such as a fight with Sakuraba, or Ogawa [judo champion],   I heard that Rickson called my name as his opponent last November.  It moved me a lot.  I had a strong feeling that I could do something meaningful for my kakutougi career exactly at my 30th year.  I wanted to throw myself into that fight with all my power I have.

As my theory on kakutougi, fight is only one time.  There is no second or third time. So todayfs result, a defeat, is everything to me.  I did enough.  The result of my training, my conditioning, and the fact that I got hurt on my leg or cut my face in the battle with Rickson, as a result of all these things, it ended in unconsciousness.  Unconsciousness is the same as nothingness. It is the end, so I decided to step out of the kakutougi world with a good grace.

Q.       Does it mean you will retire from it?

Funaki:  Yes, right.  Ifm going to work to promote Pancrase as a professional sport but my time as a fighter is finished. Pancrase is not a weak group, as Kondo Yuki proved in todayfs fight.  I lost in todayfs main fight.  But Kondo Yuki defeated Saulo Ribeiro in 22 sec. in the first match, and  Saulo is the best student of Rickson.  With this result, I will make Pancrase one of the strongest groups in the world.

Q.       Will your retirement affect Pancrase in some way?

Funaki:  Yes, some.  But it is a trial to them.  I canft do it forever.  From a different point of view, however, my retirement gives them a new chance to take over my position.   It can be taken by anybody with his own power, who is strongest now, or is most popular, or anybody.  Anyway,  I want somebody to sit on my place which is empty now.

Q.       Donft you think of leaving the ring after taking up a challenge among Pancrase?

Funaki:  No.  It is disgraceful to me.  I canft think of any farewell match in my original base after a defeat in a different style fight.  Today I came out to the fight with Pancrase on my back, so no more fights, never.

Q.       Have you been thinking that you will retire if you lose the fight?

Funaki:  Well, Ifd never thought that my challenge to 40-year-old Rickson would result in a defeat, whatever the fight would be.  People around me also said that they couldnft see any way that I could loose.  I believed their words and kept on fighting.

But reality is not so sweet.  I donft know how and what makes fate roll over to the side.  In this sense, I couldnft look at straight to the fan from the stage passage on my way back.  I canft even say gsorryh for disappointing their expectations and loyalty [weeping a little bit]. I think gsorryh is not enough, because I did something which can not be undone.  My power was not enough. That is everything. What is left to me is to leave the ring.  In other words, there will be no more fights in the ring in my life.  I am not as a special man as people think.

Q.       You mean you have to take a responsibility for your result.

Funaki:  Yes, that is gkakutougih.  Todayfs fight is kakutougi, not a sport, the world where there is nothing like a referee-stop or doctor-stop.  In the last scene, I paid attention to his arm because I felt he would come to me with reverse cross.  Then he put his arm around my neck and started to choke.  I tried to pull his arm hanging over my head, which was so strong.  Maybe he was trying to put an end to me with it.  Honestly speaking, I thought I was going to die.  Well, to tell the truth, I prepared a towel today.  I put it in a bag for an emergency, which is scary to me.  But I couldnft hand it to anybody, Kondo, Takahashi, or Hiroto, because if I ask somebody to throw in the towel at an emergency,  it means I have a feeling myself that I might lose.  When he choked me in the end, I thought I was going to die losing consciousness.  When I came to my senses, I didnft know what was going or why there was crowd standing around me.  But I was filled with joy of being alive.

Q.       You mean you were dead one time?

Funaki:  Yes.  If the referee hadnft stopped, Rickson would have kept on choking me.

It is said that five-minute choke proves fatal medically, that is, brain death.   So I was relieved.  In this sense, defeat means death in kakutougi.  Itfs very different from a sport.  I think it is impossible to change kakutogi to a sport unless I stand on the top of kakutougi.  Honestly speaking, fighters in my generation, Suzuki, Tomiya, Takahashi, and myself too, have a lot of damage on their bodies.  So it is difficult for them to change kakutougi.  I am expecting other young and vital fighters in the new generation.  I will try to work with them with much more efforts than ever, and make them engulf all kakutougi.  Then, as a next step, I want to change kakutougi to a sport.

I wanted to do it in my days, but my words without victory are meaningless.  In this sense, I was standing on kakutougi side much more than a sport this time.

Q.       Is there any part which made you think you could win during the fight?

Funaki:  Well, when Rickson lay down on the ground, I heard a whisper of a devil saying I could make it.  I kicked him from above aggressively, but he kicked back my leg too.  During this motion, I found a joint in my leg moving flaccidly.  It was a sign of trouble with my leg.  I felt it losing strength to hold my body firmly.  Then, in the next grappling, I got a knee-kick when I stood up.  Immediately after this moment, he came to catch me with a tackle.  I tried hard to keep my balance, but my leg didnft work.  As a result, he took a mount position.  In his mount position, I felt Rickson himself, that is, this is Rickson.  He is a great technician, knowing each point to attack.  Maybe a loser like me shouldnft say that, but I realized from this fight that he will meet somebody who will defeat him some day if he continues to fight.  However, he is still great even if an over 40-year-old man is defeated by a fighter in 20s.  In this sense, I think he is so special, although there are other points to comment on him.

Q.       Donft you have any complaint about the rule?

Funaki: Nothing really.  On the contrary, Ricksonfs claim, no head-butt and elbow-punch, which are common in kakutougi, made me think that he was fighting in the hope that kakutougi is accepted as a sport.  During the fight, I didnft have a disgusting feeling much which was shown when Royce came out to Ultimate in the early time.  Rickson is fair and square.

Q.       Donft you have any regret for your retirement?

Funaki:  No not at all.  I have done enough already.

Q.       What if you were asked to fight one more fight in the ring?

Funaki:  Well, I have had a lot of help from various kinds of people so far, at the same time Ifve given a dream to a lot of people too.  And also I have a pride.  So itfs enough.

Today I fought at the risk of my life.  Life is one time only.  I think I donft have to risk my life two or three times.

Q.       Was a costume at your entrance expressing your determination?

Funaki:  Yes.  It is a very dangerous story, but this is a fight in which either one will die under the rule without a referee-stop.  To be coward, I really didnft want to die.  So I showed up with a Japanese sword.  I had a strong confidence in my victory.  But, if I lose, it will be nothing but choking. Choking means death to me. Then life became dear to me.  Just one and half month ago, after completing the training camp, a little weakness came out to me.  It gave me a crazy idea that I would cut him when he gets in.  Yes, itfs really a crazy story.  If I did it, I would be the same kind of man who commits a crime like a hijack or murder.  It would turn out to be my betrayal of many people such as my fans who come to see the fight between Rickson and me, fighters of Pancrase, my supporters, and my relatives and family.  So it is out of the question, but I was really stuck to an extent that such a crazy thought was running into my head.  Confidence and anxiety were living together double-facedly. When my training was going well every other day, my mood was so high. On the other hand, when it was not so good, I was sticking to that crazy thought.  I donft mind even if the fight would fall through, or I would be sent to a jail for a while for killing Rickson with a Japanese sward when he gets in.  But everybody would leave me, if I did it.  No company, and only left is me treated like abnormal.  So I decided to fight with a belief in myself and my victory.  I can not deny my anxiety no matter how nice compliments are given to me, such as gyou are strongh or gyou will winh, etc.  I think it is the same to everybody.  They are just bluffing themselves.  Even Rickson is the same too, I think.  Then I recognized myself as a human. (deeply breathing out) Finally a long fight came to an end.  There was no answer in kakutougi.  All I learned is to keep on fighting forever.  Thank you very much for everything.

(c) 2000, Yoko Kondo, all rights reserved.


Two shots of Funaki in action against Semmy Schilt in a 1998 Pancrase event. Funaki was the better grappler by far, but he didn't have an answer to Semmy's knees