In the December 31st, PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2005, Takanori Gomi KO'd former teammate Tatsuya "Mach" Sakurai to become the PRIDE Lightweight Grand Prix Champion. Gomi was the MVP last year and has become a popular figure. We asked Gomi what he's thinking about now.
Pride Fighting Championships:
How did you spend New Year's Eve after you fight was over?
Technically, I was a little unsure of my wrestling ability because I hadn't been practicing grappling much. At that moment, my physical strength may not have been the best in the world, but it was fate for both of us to find our way to that ring and fight each other. I think we were able to show that to a lot of people.
Sakakibara (CEO of Dream Stage Entertainment) said that yours and Mach's fight was the best bought.
Yes. Actually, Keiji Suzuki (Olympic judo player) came to train with me for this fight and he's an orthodox fighter. When Mach is striking, he's also in an orthodox stance. Orthodox fighters in grappling are rare. I think it was good that I trained with a top judo player before that fight.
Your leg was caught on the rope at the moment that Mach tried to throw you. Was that part of your plan?
No, it wasn't. I didn't think he'd be able to throw me, even if the rope hadn't stopped me. The rope had nothing to do with it. Everything was inevitable. If it happened, it happened. If it didn't, that's would have been fine, too. Keiji was also happy about that.
He brought some people to train with before the fight. Keiji brings a lot of things into his training besides judo. He helped me train just because he likes to train, although we only trained together twice. Both times he agreed to train for my fight. I think I won this time just because I was able to meet Keiji.
Did you realize how strong you were after you wrestled with a top-class judo player?
I always train ground punches and if you punch the back of the head, you'll get a warning. I'm good at punching on the ground. If I punch him (behind the ear), he'll feel heavy and off-balance if the fight is stood up again.
It looked like your left punch has gotten a lot stronger. Have you been working on your left punch?
When I heard Mach's entrance song, I thought that he was going to go beyond winning or losing, and go on to a different stage. I thought I was going to cry when Mach's entrance song began playing and his name was being announced as he walked down the entranceway. That was the most emotional point for me. Look at it on TV. I wondered if I would be able to accept the challenges of my juniors and cut weight when I'm 30, too.
What do you mean by going "on to a different stage"
Mach is above wins and losses. He's going to a different class. I think he's going to a level where just existing is enough.
When you were asked at the post-fight interviews about how you feel about BJ Penn, you said that if he wants to fight you, he should come to PRIDE. When you said that, I felt that you are very proud of fighting in PRIDE.
Everyone is very happy for me this time and I am thinking of giving my body a rest but I will stand in the ring as long as there are fans. If the people watching the fights are happy, that's enough for me.
You did create a work of art in your fight with Mach. What is the next step?
I'm going to take it easy. First, I want my own place to train. There were a lot of feelings involved in my fight with Sakurai so even if I fight, I don't think I will be able to exceed it. In terms of just how it looks, I can easily give a better fight. Yes, I want to excite the fans of BUSHIDO and excite the fans of PRIDE.
Are you going to go up a weight class, as you said you would before the fight?