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?
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.
What do you think about his style of waiting for his opponent?
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.
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.
I think there will be expectations for a bout between the winner of that match and the winner of your own.