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?
Takanori Gomi: I ate dinner with everyone from my team. Everything was quiet on New Year's Day so I didn't act crazy.
Pride: Before the fight, you said that you wanted to drink so much after the fight that it'd be like taking a shower in beer.
Gomi: Everyone around me was quiet though, so it didn't turn out like that.
Pride: When did it begin to sink in that you had really won?
Gomi: I've felt it gradually as I've been interviewed. In my first interview this year, I was all alone. Not even my manager came. It's not a celebratory mood at all. I haven't had any celebration.
Pride: Did you watch a video of the fight?
Gomi: Tens of times. I'm satisfied with it. I think Mach and I made a work of art.
Pride: Were you able to give everything, as you predicted?
Gomi: Yes.
Pride: What do you think were good points in the fight?
Gomi: Everything. Mach was my opponent and it was in PRIDE. Everything from the fans to the performance was perfect.
Pride: How was it technically?
Gomi: 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.
Pride: Sakakibara (CEO of Dream Stage Entertainment) said that yours and Mach's fight was the best bought.
Gomi: It probably was from the point of view of martial arts fans.
Pride: Is there anything you regret?
Gomi: Nothing.
Pride: You were able to get Mach's back when he tried to throw you. I think that moment was a deciding point in the fight.
Gomi: 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.
Pride: Your leg was caught on the rope at the moment that Mach tried to throw you. Was that part of your plan?
Gomi: 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.
Pride: How did you get involved with Suzuki?
Gomi: 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.
Pride: Did you realize how strong you were after you wrestled with a top-class judo player?
Gomi: Not that. It was just good that I was able to meet that kind of person.
Pride: I was most surprised after you took his back on the ground when you were aiming your punches at the area behind his ears.
Gomi: 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.
Pride: It looked like your left punch has gotten a lot stronger. Have you been working on your left punch?
Gomi: Every day. I think that was from me focusing on my striking strategy, even if my grappling skills suffered.
Pride: You had to win the New Year's Eve fight by KO?
Gomi: Exactly.
Pride: Compared to last year, your microphone performance seems more adult.
Gomi: There was no need for me to say anything anymore. If you watched the fight, that was enough
Pride: How did it feel to trade punches with Mach
Gomi: Hmm" t was a work of art.
Pride: You must have had mixed feelings about that.
Gomi: 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.
Pride: What do you mean by going "on to a different stage"
Gomi: 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.
Pride: 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.
Gomi: Look at the level of fighters that they have. It's the biggest stage in the world. I believe so. It's the biggest stage in martial arts.
Pride: You lost motivation in the past after you won the SHOOTO belt. Do you think you will lose motivation again this time now that you have won the PRIDE belt?
Gomi: 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.
Pride: You did create a work of art in your fight with Mach. What is the next step?
Gomi: Hmmm" ell, I will relax and think about it.
Pride: You're not burnt out, are you?
Gomi: I just want to have fun and watch the younger fighters grow right now. That will become my strength.
Pride: Before the fight you often said that you wanted the younger fighters (in your gym) to be active fighters.
Gomi: This is a vertically structured society and it's natural that I give back to my juniors what I was given.
Pride: What will you do now?
Gomi: 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.
Pride: Are you going to go up a weight class, as you said you would before the fight?
Gomi: I don't know about that yet. For the moment, I'm not thinking about anything at all. I'm not going to train for about a month.
Pride: Because that fight was incredible, though, I think there are a lot of people that want to see your next fight as soon as possible.
Gomi: I'm really grateful but unlike other people, I've got to clean my room first. (laughter) I'm way behind, at least 5 days more than other people. I was busy with my work until December 31st, after all.
Pride: When should we expect you back at the front lines?
Gomi: I will just leave it up to my feelings. When I feel like fighting, I will fight. When I do, I will give the greatest performance. Until, I will take it easy.
Pride: You spoke about your parents a lot before the fight. Have you spoken to them since the fight?
Gomi: I went back to my parents" home on January 3rd. Nothing has changed, though. They just said I did a good job. Nothing has changed.