Yuki Kondo Interview

Yuki Kondo and Akihiro Gono will fight in a rematch five years in-the-making in the December 31st PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2006, to be held at Saitama Super Arena. This will be Kondo's 4th consecutive appearance in the New Year's Eve event. However, he has yet to win a fight in PRIDE since his 2003 PRIDE debut. Kondo is now burning inside to get his first PRIDE victory.

The history between Yuki Kondo and Akihiro Gono dates back to their first match on December 1, 2001. With his usual sharp wit, Gono blasted the PANCRASE fighters and was considered an "invader" in PANCRASE due to his bad attitude in the ring. Kondo, on the other hand, was the leader of the PANCRASE team in a PANCRASE Tokyo & Yokohama VS GRABAKA match. The fight was billed as being between Kondo, the PANCRASE ace, and Gono, the upstart challenger.

Many people thought Gono had the advantage going into the fight. Although Gono was able to throw Kondo several times in the 1st round, Kondo completely dominated Gono with strikes in the following rounds. Overwhelming Gono with pounding, Kondo won the match at 52 seconds into the 3rd round by TKO when the leader of GRABAKA, Sanae Kikuta, threw in the towel. The damage from Kondo's pounding was enough to send Gono to the hospital after the fight.

Gono has been waiting for an opportunity to rematch Kondo since that day. For years Gono has been determined to fight Kondo, commenting "Kondo is always on my mind." This year, Gono fought his way to the best four of the Welterweight Grand Prix and after five long years, will face Kondo once again. Kondo, however, hasn't faired well this year, losing to Phil Baroni by KO just seconds into their fight and taken to the judge's decision, which ended in a draw, by the relatively unknown Jean Francois Lenogue. In the PRIDE ring, Gono clearly has more experience and a better record.

Now, five years after their first match and under much different circumstances, how does Kondo feel about his rematch with Gono?




Pride Fighting Championships : You previously asked to be on the New Year's Eve card. How did you feel when you received the offer to fight Gono?
Yuki Kondo: I was surprised. This is an unexpected match-up, even to me. I hadn't even thought about it.
Pride: Apparently you felt after your first fight (with Gono) that you would fight again.
Kondo: I had a feeling that we would.
Pride: Since then, Gono has made PRIDE his home. Did you consider him as an opponent when you watched him fight here?
Kondo: No, that's not the way I thought of him. I watched his fights purely for fun.
Pride: Do you think Gono's fighting style has changed since your first fight?
Kondo: Not to me. I can't tell the difference between now and back then. Of course, he's been training all this time, so he should be better now but I don't know exactly what has improved.
Pride: I think his defensive techniques have improved.
Kondo: I really don't know what's different.
Pride: Well, Gono is known for his defensive techniques. Is that a problem for you, since you are good at striking?
Kondo: I've never considered it to be a problem.
Pride: So you think that you can hit him?
Kondo: Not just because it's me. When I'm imagining my fights, I begin to build an image of hitting my opponents. It's not about overconfidence or whether he's difficult to hit or whether I dislike his defense. It's not that way at all.
Pride: What do you think about his style of waiting for his opponent?
Kondo: I probably would have considered it difficult back then but I think I'll be fine now.
Pride: Your theme since the middle of this year has been to win by submission. Do you feel that you have grown as a result of your submission win in your December PANCRASE match?
Kondo: No, I don't think that one will count.
Pride: Will you continue with that theme?
Kondo: Yes, I will.
Pride: Do you want submit Gono?
Kondo: Yes. I would like to finish the fight with strikes but I would also like to finish it on the ground. If we're going to fight, then I want to finish the fight (before it goes to the decision).
Pride: You seemed to be the superior fighter back in the PANCRASE days but now that Gono made it to the best four in this year's Welterweight Grand Prix, it also seems that your positions have changed.
Kondo: I don't know, really. I didn't feel like one of us was superior the first time we fought and I'm not particularly interested in what everyone else thinks about it now. All I could say would be something like, oh, okay. So I don't feel like I have to do anything special to change our positions.
Pride: You just want to enjoy the fight?
Kondo: Exactly.
Pride: You said that Gono is your favorite adversary at your press conference. Gono was happy to hear it, but that would make [GRABAKA leader] Sanae Kikuta irrelevant, wouldn't it?
Kondo: No, not at all. (laughing) I don't rank fighters like that. Sorry. That was just an expression about how I feel. (laughing)
Pride: If you beat Gono, would you want to face Welterweight Grand Prix Champion Kazuo Misaki next?
Kondo: I really want to fight him. I'm interested in all the fighters that were in the Welterweight Grand Prix, including Misaki. I'm particularly interested in the best four fighters.
Pride: You still haven't won in the Welterweight Division. Does that bother you?
Kondo: No, not really.
Pride: Have you gone back to your old weight?
Kondo: My weight returned naturally. It may have returned a little more than necessary in some places, though. (laughing)
Pride: So you have to lose weight for New Year's Eve.
Kondo: I weigh about 88kg right now. Now that I've cut weight before, I think I will be able to do it much easier this time. My body is more accustomed to being a Welterweight now.
Pride: Kiyoshi Tamura and Ikuhisa Minowa will also fight on New Year's Eve. How do you predict that fight?
Kondo: I think if you compare their abilities, Tamura is probably better. Minowa, however, has the capability to overcome and I think that's Minowa's real attraction. So, I won't know (what will happen) until they actually fight.
Pride: I think there will be expectations for a bout between the winner of that match and the winner of your own.
Kondo: I haven't thought that far ahead at all. If I had the opportunity, though, I would love to do it.
Pride: You haven't won in PRIDE since you made your PRIDE debut in SHOCKWAVE 2003. Do you feel strongly about winning this fight?
Kondo: Of course, I want to win. I don't want to just have a good fight. I want to win. I will win on New Year's Eve.