Japanese fighter Akihiro Gono has been confirmed to fight Denis Kang in the Semi-Final Round of the PRIDE Welterweight Grand Prix 2006 Final Round event, to be held at PRIDE BUSHIDO 13 on November 5th at the Yokohama Arena. Gono, a jokester at heart, revealed some of his more serious thoughts in his exclusive interview with PRIDE Fighting Championships.




Pride Fighting Championships: The fans voted for your match up with Denis Kang, and the match between Kazuo Misaki and Paulo Filho, in the Welterweight Grand Prix Final Round card. What do you think the fans wanted when they cast those votes?
Akihiro Gono: I don't know. I still haven't seen any end to Denis Kang's abilities or holes in his game. I guess the fans wanted to see what would happen if he fought someone that is good at disarming his opponents, like me. Our styles are completely different, right? Kang goes out swinging to destroy his opponents whereas I think while I fight, slowly bringing the fight to my own pace. I'm sure the fans are interested to see what would happen if they brought us together.
Pride: Who did you really want to fight, Kang or Filho?
Gono: In terms of style, I don't think I would take as much physical damage from Paulo. I thought that if I can make it all the way to the Final Round, Paulo would be better to fight but he's just going to keep tackling, right? I won't be able to build up my own rhythm that way. Kang, however, uses his strikes and that will allow me to build my own rhythm. In that sense, I think Kang may be better but really, it doesn't matter.
Pride: So, Kang is easier for you to fight?
Gono: Yes, it's easier to make a game plan against him. I think there's a better chance of being able to bring the fight to my pace with Kang than with Paulo.
Pride: Have you actually found any holes that you can use?
Gono: Let's just say that I stand a fair chance of winning.
Pride: Even against Denis Kang?
Gono: My trainer and I talked together and we believe that there is a good chance. A popular phrase between my trainer and myself right now is "Denis Kang, bring it on!" (laughing) So, bring it on! Bring it on! or something like that.
Pride: Really? (laughing) Do you think it will be easier to fight Kang standing or on the ground?
Gono: Standing, I think.
Pride: But, you've been training in grappling for many, many years too, right?
Gono: I have the skills to deal with him but really, he hasn't shown that much ground fighting either. In terms of data, he's spent more time on his feet, which makes it easier to come up with a striking strategy.
Pride: At the press conference, you were trying to get laughs by saying you were going to score points and confusing Denis Kang and Oliver Khan.
Gono: Yeah. Khan was the best player, the best goalkeeper, in the match between Japan and Korea in the World Cup! Apparently Khan's the only goalkeeper to ever have been MVP in the World Cup, before or since. It must be hard to score points on someone like that.
Pride: There's no connection to this fight, though.
Gono: There's no connectionno khanection. No Kang! Oh, that's good! I kill me.
Pride: (laughing)you've been telling a lot of bad jokes, recently.
Gono: It's tough making everyone laugh. It's impossible unless you're a professional comedian! I just the kind of guy that makes people laugh at parties. I was the class clown at school but it's a lot harder to be funny when speaking in front of a big crowd. So, I'm just a class clown. Please don't ask me to make everyone laugh, because I can't!
Pride: So, you're good at bad jokes too, not just decisions.
Gono: Great! But, I think everyone thinks I'm interesting. If someone doesn't think that I'm interesting, we're just too different so we could never be drinking buddies. People that laugh at my jokes have a similar sense of humor or are just on the same wavelength as me. I want to be friends with all of those people.
Pride: Kang criticized your dancing. Does that mean you and Kang can't be friends?
Gono: In that case, I want to tell Kang to put on his best entrance. If he's going to say that I can't dance, let's see his dancing. I want him to dance when he comes in. We'll see who can make the audience more excited.
Pride: (laughing)
Gono: Then we can start the fight. It'll be like two battles for the price of one, the entrance and the fight. I'm definitely going to win the entrance so even if I lose the fight, I'll be one and one. We can draw straws to break the tie then. How about whoever wins by drawing straws gets the right to speak on the microphone?
Pride: Sorry, I don't have the power to put that together for you. What do you really think, though.
Gono: Bring it on! Really. But if you technically compare Kang and Suloev, the guy he fought last time, I think Suloev is better. He can give back more than he gets, even against fighters than come out stronger than him. Despite that, Kang still beat him.
Pride: Your career has spanned more than 10 years since you were called the "genius of mixed martial arts." Do you think this Grand Prix is the pinnacle of that career?
Gono: Yes. When I look back on my career many years from now, this may be the greatest event I was ever in. It does have that much potential.
Pride: You must really want to take advantage of this chance, then.
Gono: Of course. I've been in the low-levels longer than anyone else, so I really, really want to win this tournament. I want something that I can remember. I really think this is my big chance. I can break through. I've let so many chances go by on the way to this tournament. I haven't beaten the top fighters like Shogun but I think this tournament is a test to see if I can join the top fighters or not. I don't want to be known as a so-so fighter forever. I think that if I beat Kang here and then win the Final Round, I will be considered a top fighter and in that sense, this fight has a lot of meaning.