View Full Version : Interview with Mirko's manager Ken Imai

18-09-2005, 11:44
Here is a translation of a long interview with Mirko Manager Ken Imai appearing in the current issue of PRIDE's in house magazine KAMI PRO WRES. He goes into the history of Mirko getting into MMA and also talks about the reasons for Mirko's loss. He reveals that Mirko's left leg was injured for the fight and other interesting stuff

Kami Pro Wresu
Mirko Crocop The Truth Of Defeat

A long tell all interview by Ken Imai

Mirko loses a major battle. On 28th August at Pride GP Saitama Super Arena Mirko got the chance he was waiting for 2 years against Fedor; however, after 3 rounds he lost on decision 3-0.

From the gong, Fedor came forward aggressively and neutralized the left high kick. This was the defining moment of Mirko’s fight career. This loss must be felt very heavily by Mirko. However, after the match, Mirko didn’t make any comments himself, but left his representatives to make the comments while he went directly home to Croatia.

However, straight after the match, there was a Japanese who spent a couple of hours with Mirko in his hotel room talking about Mirko’s thoughts after the loss; this is Ken Imai.

This person may not be known that well to people in the fight industry, however, he is the person who holds all of the rights to Mirko. In the 1990s he was the Managing Director of K1 and handled all of K1’s foreign business. In 2003, he took Mirko away from K1 to make him one of Pride’s stars. We could say that he is one of the key persons in the fight industry. Especially he is very close to Mirko. In 1998 and 1999 just after Mirko’s K1 debut based on Branko Cikatic’s introduction and then some problems, Ken Imai was able to bring Mirko back to K1; after Mirko’s loss to McDonald in K1 Melbourne he convinced Mirko to fight Fujita in MMA. This is the man who knows everything about Mirko.

He is the person who seems should have had many interviews but actually he has worked in the background and refused media interviews. However, this time Mirko staked his whole life for this fight with Fedor and since he is the only Japanese who spoke to Mirko, he knows that he is the only person who can properly communicate Mirko’s thoughts to the fans and so he reluctantly agreed to this interview. 4 days after the fight with Fedor we met with Imai at Mirko’s usual luxury hotel bar lounge.

Ken Imai as the owner of all rights to Mirko had a 2 hour interview with us as below:-

KP: 4 days after Mirko’s loss has he gotten over the sadness for his loss?
KI:- He has been able to get over a bit…. But he is still sad. From that day, every day he is thinking about the reasons for his loss.

KP: I suppose that the whole of Crocop Team, including his management feels like they all lost?
KI: Of course. Mirko lost to Fedor, but I also feel like I personally lost to Johan Vos who was with Fedor.

KP: Oh yes, we saw Johan Vos in Fedor’s corner.
KI: Yes. I couldn’t believe he was Fedor’s second. This time, Mirko was fully analysed by Johan Vos.

KP: Do you think that the key to Fedor’s vistory was Johan Vos?
KI: Not only that, but I know him for almost 10 years. From K1 days he was one of the promoters and Hoost’s manager. He negotiated Hoost’s fight money and opponents and other conditions. In my days at K1, while it is not appropriate, I was very friendly with Andy Hug and I felt very emotionally about him. IN those days, the big rivals for Andy were Hoost and Johan. Personally, I think that Johan is a champion maker and great trainer but I feel very complicated about him. I suppose that is a sign of his influence.

KP; You didn’t expect to see him in front of you?
KI: Even though I had a special feeling for Andy, I’ve spent a lot of time with Mirko and my feelings for Mirko are much bigger than they were for Andy. So my sadness is difficult to express.

KP: You and Mirko have walked a long road together in the fight industry in the last few years haven’t you?
KI: Sure. The first time I saw Mirko’s fight was in 1996. Ohh its been 10 years…. It was his debut and he beat Jerome Lebanner. At that time Mirko had a fight with Branko and Mirko couldn’t fight in K1 for a while. In March 1999, I first went to Croatia. From that time, I’ve been to Croatia how many times? I convinced Mirko to fight in his first MMA fight when I went to Zagreb.

KP: The first fight with Fujita was August 2001 right? How did this happen?
KI: At that time, Mirko had just lost in a K1 Qualifier in Melbourne in June 2001 to Michael McDonald by KO. I was the person responsible for that event. Straight after that loss I spent a lot of time with Mirko talking to him about his future. To put it simply, that loss disqualified Mirko from the K1 GP that year. But we didn’t talk about that then; a few weeks later the K1 v Inoki event suddenly appeared and we had to put a few K1 fighters into this event. Amongst the best 8 only Mirko had not qualified for the K1 GP, so I went to Croatia to convince him to take this fight. When I think about it now, everything started from then.

KP: It was pretty good of Mirko to accept MMA rules.
KI: Usually when you think about K1 fighters fighting MMA rules it is usually impossible. We saw Stefan Leko’s efforts in the last year. But at the right age and with the right conditioning and attitude and due to the right timing of not fighting at the K1 GP the only candidate was Mirko.

KP: Did Mirko say OK straight away?
KI: He didn’t know what was going to happen so I couldn’t convince him over the phone. I went to Zagreb and told him that he cant fight in the K1 GP and so there is no place for him to go other than this which he accepted. Mirko didn’t know anything about Fujita so I told him that the opponent was Japanese and that I would protect him as much as possible with the rules. When he found out that Fujita was his opponent and that he was strong, he claimed that I had conned him.

KP: From those days, even as a K1 representative you were acting as Mirko’s manager right?
KI: That’s right. Especially for the Fujita fight we wanted him to win. After that fight I went straight to Pride and we arranged special matches with Takada and Vanderlei Silva. I protected Mirko with 3 minute rounds and no judges decisions special rules. In the rule meeting, Mr Sakaguchi from Takada Dojo and Shooto Boxing Rugimar, they were very upset at the special rules but I was able to get these. These days I get on very well with all of them, but in those days I was a totally unrelated person.

KP: So that was the way you built great relations with Mirko?
KI: You know, Croatian people have the actual experience of war and so they don’t trust people so easily.

KP: It looks like you took a long time with Mirko?
KI: In those days we had different ideas about the right fight money and there were some misunderstandings…. But after our disagreements, we could solve our differences and this is how we got to here. A few years ago there was a Croatian who betrayed Mirko (smiling)

KP: You’re talking about that person who suddenly appeared around Inoki Bom Ba Ye 2003 right?
KI: Well, he was just my Croatian interpreter. When I think about it now, he just moved on his own as called himself as a representative without any authority.

KP: We can all laugh about it now. In the Spring of 2003, Imai and Mirko left K1 for Pride. Did Mirko agree to this without any problems?
KI: Well, when we left K1, I really wondered whether the interpreter was making the proper translations. Mirko thought that now he could become K1’s big star, but I said that Mirko could be bigger than that and I went to Zagreb to convince him of it.

KP: It was the best time to do this right?
KI: Of course, at that time, I was still in K1 and I was in some troubles with K1 and Mirko could understand my position. I decided that I could make Mirko a big star and I made a sort of simulation how this would happen. I suppose he believed in my capabilities. I thought he could be the top of PRIDE. Lets challenge Fedor was Mirko’s intention.

KP: You decided on a pretty hard road didn’t you?
KI: Right. It’s a totally different ring and for the first opponent I chose Heath Herring.

KP: He was one of the top HWs at that time wasn’t he?
KI: That’s why I picked him; everybody around Mirko and Mirko himself said that this was a mistake. I said to Mirko, I believe in you and I suppose Mirko trusted my judgement. At that time, I also knew that this was big gamble for me as well. That time, during the matchmaking process at Fuji TV, tanigawa was still involved in meetings. This match was made without any consultation to Tanigawa and so I knew I had to work hard to make this match.

KP: At that time Tanigawa was still involved was he?
KI: Well, I made all the talks without any consultation to him. When we assembled everybody at Fuji TV and Takada said, lets announce the matchmaking, Mirko v Heath was included and Tanikawa was shocked.

KP: He lost his words did he?
KI: At that moment, as everybody knows, the war started. That led to the 2003 fight for fighters. The reason for this war is something that I cant talk about here. But after that, Ishii sent a fax to many people which damaged me greatly. But lets not talk too much about the past. The reason why I didn’t move into the public sphere is connected to many reasons related to this. All of the related parties should not tell all the facts to the media.

KP: That’s right. So lets leave the past behind and move onto this fight for Mirko. How was Mirko’s condition? He didn’t look that good.
KI: His condition was great. To improve his condition he came to Japan 5 days early; but even this, he couldn’t get over the jet lag.

KP: Was he still jetlagged on fight day?
KI: definitely. Even the night before the fight, he couldn’t sleep and played cards with his friends from Croatia and then went to the arena. When the fight started, he hadn’t slept for 20 hours. I suppose that this was the reason for the loss. But neither myself or Mirko want to make any excuses. When Mirko wnet for the doctor check Mirko’s pulse was 74-78 when he is a but excited. This time he was at 65. It is impossible for him to be so relaxed before this fight. At the time I felt it was strange. I think that it seems his body was going to sleep around this time.

KP: This didn’t get published anywhere, but in fact in his fight against Magmodev, Mirko hurt his left leg didn’t he? Was that fine before the Fedor fight?
KI: Actually it didn’t heal before the fight. Even right before the fight he went for treatment. Magmodev must have had hard bones or Mirko hit him in the wrong spot but when Mirko kicked him with the middle kick, Mirko hurt his left leg.

KP: In July we went to Croatia and during that time Mirko couldn’t kick at all and even during training he was calling his doctor. That’s why there was no photos at all from that trip with Mirko kicking.
KI: I don’t want to make any excuses so that’s not important.

KP: This is why Fedor made an appeal before the fight that his right hand hadn’t healed properly. But in fact, it was Mirko who had his left leg injured right?
KI: Its one of the reasons that Mirko couldn’t use his left kick much. But it is also my fault for not arranging good striking partners for Mirko. In July, Azem Max Ty went to Zagreb for 2 weeks for striking sparring, but he is only 93kgs and during sparring, Mirko’s high kick hit him hard and so he left. From that time, I heard from Vos that Fedor was coming to Vos Gym to train and while he could assist in small ways and so he sent Antony Hardink to help in striking sparring. Hardink is a striker who can fight both MMA and K1 and is 106kgs.

KP: So Vos Gym was helping both Fedor and Mirko?
KI: Well Hardink had a fight in Zadar in July and Johan brought him to that fight. I was in Zagreb for the Suntory Commercial and called him and spoke to him and he agreed to stay in Croatia for 2 weeks; but finally he made a bunch of excuses and took him back to Holland. Fedor’s side told Vos not to give Hardink to Mirko for training. I suppose my planning was not perfect and this is one of the reasons for the loss. This is my responsibility to arrange proper sparring partners. Therefore, Fedor was able to train striking sparring a lot while Mirko had to concentrate on ground fighting. But I suppose that Vos has a lot of experience in K1 and he made Hoost in K1 and I suppose I expected that Vos would help Mirko since he was a K1 fighter working hard in Pride; I suppose that way of thinking was a bit simple.

KP: So I suppose you have some responsibility as well?
KI: At that time I should have arranged a hard right hand puncher…. Well I suppose that’s not the only reason.

KP: After the fight, Mirko didn’t turn up to the meeting room so we couldn’t tell his mood. What was he like after the fight?
KI: The locker room was like a funeral parlour. Mirko was by himself in the corner. He was icing his right leg and also his right eye and I thought he would say lets go back to the hotel immediately but I said to him “a lot of sponsors and other people have come here to see you so you should see them? Mirko agreed to see the people from Suntory and the Chairman of the Wrestling Federation. When Mirko wanted to go back to the locker room, Takada found us and said “Imai, is Mirko OK? I hope that Mirko is not going to quit Pride because he lost here?

KP: Well it was such a big fight.
KI: Well, I thought that Mirko would not say this sort of anything so I wasn’t worried about it. But takada was worried and he said “Its your responsibility to make sure he doesn’t say anything like this? and so I went back to locker room and said lets go back to the hotel. When Mirko wins, he always sits with his friends and jokes and has a good time. When he loses, he always sits next to me. This time, it was raining he was very upset and was quiet and then suddenly he started saying a lot of things that he has never said before.

KP: Did Mirko say that he would retire?
KI: well……. In English he said “I don’t know if I should…? He didn’t want to continue that sentence but I knew he was thinking this. I suppose he wanted me to say that “don’t be so stupid?. But since he didn’t say it, I thought, this is like Mirko. But since he almost died training and was not successful and I suppose that the word he didn’t say was the word that you’re talking about. I suppose that it was Takada’s comments that were stuck in my head. I thought, well takada must have been thinking about this. Takada put his life on the line fighting Rickson Gracie and lost and so I suppose that Takada knew what Mirko was feeling. Of course, this is just my idea. I didn’t hear his last words so I may not be right.

KP: How did you reply to Mirko?
KI: I didn’t reply. I just listened to his monologue. Mirko just wanted me to listen to him. After that we spoke about a few things but we just looked out of the window at Tokyo’ scenery and came back to the hotel. So I suppose that I spoke to Mirko for 2 hours when we got back to the hotel.

KP: It concerns the future Mirko Crocop right?
KI: Well I returned to my room and thought about what I could say to mirko while I had a shower. After 30mins I went to Mirko’s room. At that time Mirko was being massaged and I took a chair next to his bed and waited for him to finish. At that time, the guys in his room, including seconds and Mirko’s supporters from Croatia left the room and I said “I am not fighter so about your fighting I cant say anything. I trust you. But I have seen a lot of fights, I think that you trust my opinion and so can I tell you what I think?? Mirko said “speak please?. I said “why do you think you lost?? He said “I lost my stamina? I said “that’s wrong, you lost the fight to Fedor in striking?

KP: I suppose that you told the proud Mirko the last thing he wanted to hear?
KI: Well I feel responsible for this. I didnt prepare striking sparring partners. At that time, we looked at a video of Mirko in 1999 in his fight against Musashi and I said that in the past you were an aggressive left and right hand striker and nobody knew what you would do with your variety of striking. You were a surprising opponent. But since you came into Pride, you didn’t want to get taken down and so you concentrated on a one hit weapon. While this is a great development and you have been able to destroy a lot of opponents so nobody can say anything about this. But for Fedor Johan Vos was his second and Lucien Carbin was helping and so world class striking coaches were with Fedor and so comparing your striking from K1 days, they could see that your striking variety is now limited. They could analyse you perfectly and so you couldn’t use your usual weapons because they prepared a good defence to your weapons.

KP: So you have told us everything that you felt about this fight?
KI: yes. Mirko silently listened to everything I said. That’s why I told Mirko my frank opinion. You were lucky you didn’t get totally hammered by Fedor. By since you could improve your ground defence you could avoid this. Thinking about it, there are too many ground specialists around you. After saying this I didn’t say any more.

KP: Do you think that Mirko has to go back to his striking?
KI: No. He has lifted his ground technique and so he just needs to practice his striking a bit more. If he doenst do this he wont be able to beat Fedor. That’s why Pride is such a high level ring and that’s why its interesting. It’s a place where all of the best fighters in the world are assembled and it takes a lot to be champion. That’s why I need to work just as hard as when I found Werdum for Mirko to find a high level striking sparring partner for Mirko. Mirko told me he would leave it to me.

KP: So you didn’t talk about retirement?
KI: Of course we talked about it. I told him that the whole of Japan was supporting him. If he gives up now, people will say that this is not Mirko Crocop and he changed his attitude straight away. He said that he wanted to rest and wait for NYE but then he said “Ken what do you think?? Well, the October Pride event was not made for you, but since its theme is “Starting Over? and if the doctor says it ok you should go for something like you did with Kanehara and if you don’t over work then we can get you in good condition, this would be the best thing.

KP: October is pretty early comeback but you say its like Mirko…
KI: Of course, this depends on Mirko and the doctors. Of course we can prepare for NYE as another option.

KP: I suppose that in NYE it will be a very important match?
KI: I told Mirko this; but I want to matchmake Mirko against Nogueira for his revenge match. But we don’t know if Nogueira will fight against you because you don’t have the champion belt; but for you, you must go for revenge against nogueira. If you want to fight in October then there is a guy I want you to fight. Mirko asked “who?? I said “……?

KP; Wow, that’s a major comeback!
KI: Why fight this guy? Well Mirko needs to fight this guy.

KP: Mirko is an amazing guy isn’t he? Mirko has already got into “starting over?.
KI: In his head he has already started again. Basically if he can get it right in his head he can do it.He also said this: up until now challenging for the belt was his major incentive, now getting the belt is his purpose in life. That’s how much he wants to beat Fedor. So Mirko’s next intention is to fight Fedor in the finals of next year’s HW GP. His way to get revenge is to get the HW GP belt. I said it before to beat Fedor is almost humanly impossible so he had to be prepared. For me and Mirko next year is a starting over. I am this sad and I can only imagine how sad mirko is. In the last round, the fact that Mirko could survive built his strength and character more and more. And the fact that he can come back from this is Mirko Crocop.

KP: Understood. We want to support this sort of Crocop and thank you.

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The Maniac
18-09-2005, 12:10


19-09-2005, 02:09
This "man" ken imai is the biggest liar in the industry.
He fucked everybody in his way to make money.
He betrayed his former boss
Was not the real man behind Crop Cop but Miro Mijatovic.
Ken Imai took all foreign money for K-1 licensee from Isshi, when Isshi was sentenced to jail he tried to take over like a real rat.
He caused the wart betweeen Pride and K-1 who at that point were working together.
Quinton who fought Abidi twice in K-1 and Semmy against Mushashi etc.
As manager he sucks completly this Imai idiot:
He threatned former manger of Stefan Leko Norbert Schiffer with his life if he did not let Stefan go.
He fucked Mirko's career because of making the movie with Mirko were he was the producer. Mirko lost to Randleman that night and after that fight the idiot Imai let him fight Kanehare within a month after that heavy k.o. He could not k.o Kanehare and his poreformance was shit.
His excuses about Vos etc are the most stupid thing I ever heared.
He is such a cheap basterd, to promise a fighter a fight so he also can sparr with Mirko for 1 or two weeks, wow, he did not talk howmuch he paid Vos?
Fedor is training for months now in Holland with some of the best trainers in the world in the stand up industry. If Imai did his homework he could have brought mirko (or invite to croatia) to : Cor Hemmers, Thom Harinck, John de Ling, Mikki Ben Azzouz, there are plenty of very good dutch expierienced trainers, but a cheap idiot like Ken did not want to pay for real sparringspartners or trainers. Were Fedor gave some of his percentage to his trainers, Imai was inviting a fighter and asking for favours.
The movie sucks , his managments sucks, his hair style sucks, his gay attitude sucks. Mirko go get a real manager and trainer, you have the hart, the guts and with some better sparringspartners and trainers you will get that belt.

19-09-2005, 09:28
Maybe I'm wrong, but somehow I've got the idea you don't like Ken Imai :lol:

23-09-2005, 20:29

This guy sounds like Bas Boone !

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