Pre-PRIDE 25 Interview with Antonio "Nino" Schembri
By Brett Herman
March 14, 2003
Brett Herman: On February 8th, you were notified that you will face Sakuraba on March 16. Do you feel you had enough time to train for him?
Antonio "Nino" Schembri: Yes. I started training a few months ago, but not for Vale Tudo. I have had to change my training, but it's OK.
Brett Herman: Has Pride set any weight conditions for either you or Sakuraba?
Antonio "Nino" Schembri: About weight, itīs my decision. I think we are not going to worry about it.
Brett Herman: What weight do you want to fight at?
Antonio "Nino" Schembri: The weight I'm at feels good.
Brett Herman: Some are saying that this fight will be Sakuraba vs. Royler all over again, and that Sakuraba is "cancer" for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu artists. However, the odds on your fight started out with Sakuraba as a huge favorite, and the last time I looked, you were both at about even money. Any thoughts?
Antonio "Nino" Schembri: I disagree completely. First, Royler is a 150 lbs fighter, and I'm 180lbs lbs. Second, he's dedicated his life to the sport jiu jitsu where he's great, but he dosen't care much for his stand up. Third, Royler's game is very different than mine. I don't fight for the points, I looking for the submission for the begine to the end.
Royler is a finisher too, but Saku is very much heavier, bigger, and stronger than Royler. For sure Saku is the favorite he's one of the best fighters in the vale tudo. He's a legend and his rank shows he's somebody special.
So, I guarantee that this will be a great match, but I learned that nobody wins a fight before the confrontation. To answer this question, I don't fight for money, only I fight for pleasure of my fans. I would never hold such responsability just for money, and fighting Mr. Sakuraba has been in my dreams, and my fans' dreams.
Brett Herman: Will you try to stand with Sakuraba, or will you take the fight straight to the ground?
Antonio "Nino" Schembri: Itīs very difficult to say. I've planned some things, but I will go to try what I do in training. Of course, if the fight goes to the ground I would like that. I will give Sakuraba what he wants. If he wants to fight on the ground, he will have it. Iif he wants to stand up and fight, he will have it. I trained to be ready for any situation, respecting that Sakuraba also is good in any situation.
Brett Herman: Have you been working a lot of leg-lock defense?
Antonio "Nino" Schembri: I have worked on every part of my game, including leglock defense and attacks.
Brett Herman: How important is it to you to finish Sakuraba with a submission?
Antonio "Nino" Schembri: For me, itīs always important to finishs my fights. Does not matter that it's Sakuraba or another fighter, but I know this will be a great challenge for me since he's 16lbs heavier than me, and ripped, and a very technical fighter.
Brett Herman: Are you training with Ryan Gracie and Fabio Leopoldo?
Antonio "Nino" Schembri: Yes I īm training with both. And I have trained with a lot of different people.
Brett Herman: Have you spoken to any of Sakuraba's former Brazilian opponents, Vitor, Vanderlai, Renzo, Ryan, Royler, or Royce about your strategy for this fight?
Antonio "Nino" Schembri: No. I have my own strategy. I prefer not asking but seeing videos of Sakuraba's fights. I think it's better for me.
Brett Herman: You always appear to be the coolest guy in the room Nino, do you feel any pressure fighting against Japan's hero in his own backyard, or is it just another day on the stage for Elvis?
Antonio "Nino" Schembri: No, I donīt feel any pressure. But I know it will be a battle. I think Iīll feel like Elvis in Las Vegas, completely relaxed for the show.
You know, I think he's got a chance, especially with all of Sak's injuries.
Definetly. He is better on the ground than anybody else Saku has fought. Brazilians sometimes call him Rickson II....