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The Mixed Martial Art Gomi

Alan Lee
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Takanori Gomi was born September 22, 1978 in Aikawa, Kanagawa, Japan, the second eldest son. In 1994, he entered Aikawa Higashi Junior High, and also trained at a boxing gym, Sagamihara Yonekura Gym, as his extra-curricular activity, although he was also a pitcher for his school's baseball team. In 1996, he began training in amateur wrestling perhaps due to watching Royler Gracie fight in Vale Tudo Japan 1996 against Noboru Asahi, and then later Royce's UFC fights piqued his interests.

Unfortunately, it was maybe this interest that caused him to fail his classes and not be promoted to the next grade level. His parents were even less happy when he decided to drop out of school, and thus disowned him. He traveled to Kiguchi Gym, school of Combat Wrestling founder/ SHOOTO forefather Noriaki Kiguchi.

Around this time, he met a young karateka who was coming into his own winning the 1996 All-Japan Amateur SHOOTO Welterweight (65 - 70 kg) Championship, Hayato Sakurai, whom he would train with and call mentor. In 1997, Gomi became 1997's 4th Annual RINGS Under 70kg 2nd place winner.

On November 27, 1998, Takanori Gomi won a decision against 1997's 70-76 kg All-Japan Amateur Shooto Champion Hiroshi Tsuruya, at SHOOTO Las Grandes Viajes 6, in his debut Class-B prof fight (Class B fights are designed for fighters new to pro MMA. They are two 5-minute rounds). Gomi just a year ago before joined Shooto Gym K'z Factory, which was founded by SHOOTO pioneer Kazuhiro Kazuyanagi.

There, he also began to train with another man destined for great things, RUMINA Sato. From then on, he had a remarkable year of wins, including those excurisons representing the SHOOTO organization, such as his Rear Naked Choke submission on Stephen "Bozo" Palling (June 1, 1999 at Hawaii's SuperBrawl 12), his Rear Naked Choke submission of Johnny Eduardo (December 11, 1999 at Vale Tudo Japan 1999. That year Takanori Gomi also began competing with Greatest Common Multiple (GCM)'s Contenders, a professional submisison wrestling event, sponsored by MMA fighter Caol Uno's group, the Wajyutsu Keisyukai Network (WK Net). In his debut and his first main event match, for their first show, he lost to Yasushi Miyake of WK Net's Real Japan Wrestling (RJW) by a decision, October 17, 1999.

At SHOOTO's year-end show, t SHOOTO R.E.A.D. Final, December 17, 2000, Caol Uno defeated his rival RUMINA Sato via KO to win the SHOOTO World Welterweight (65 - 70kg) Title vacated by Japanese SHOOTO pioneer Yuki Nakai years ago due to his career-ending injuries stemming from his fights with Gerard Gordeau, Craig "The PitBull" Pitman, and Rickson Gracie at Vale Tudo Japan 1995.

However, Caol Uno would soon vacate the title in early 2001 due to his mutual release from SHOOTO, to fight at UFC. Because Gomi defeated PUREBRED Omiya's undefeated Ryan Bow in November of 2000 in one of Gomi's first few Class-A matches, the Japan SHOOTO Association awarded him with a title match. However, the Number One Contender for the prestigious title was Dokonjonosuke Mishima*, whom had armbarred Tony DeDolph (at Hook N Shoot: Fusion, Evansville Indiana) in less than 5 minutes, and then Kneebarred top Brazilian Luta Livre fighter Marcio "Cromado" Barbosa in less than 5 minutes of the 2nd Round at the same event Uno won the title.

Unfortunately Mishima* injured his ribs in the early part of the year. For his injury, Mishima* was bumped down in rank to 3rd and was signed to fight Ryan Bow on the 2001 year-end show, To The Top Final Act. In his stead for the match, was once again RUMINA Sato in the title contendership picture.

Gomi returned to Kiguchi Gym, as he would not have been able to fight his team-mate for a title match, and also because of Noriaki Kiguchi's closeness to him. In fact, he has since been coaching the Kiguchi Gym kid's team, the Thunderkidz. One of his firsts act back at Kiguchi's was to represent the Gym at the 7th All-Japan Combat Wrestling Championships.

Combat Wrestling was a sport developed by Noriaki Kiguchi in the early 90s as submission wrestling competition open to all registrants, with its first championships in 1995. Gomi last competed in 1998 and won 3rd place in the 63 - 69 kg division. In 2001, he defeated Takeshi Onuki, Mitsuhiro Ishida (TOPS), before winning the 63 - 69 kg Championship by outscoring Kazuhiro Inoue (IMPRESS). Perhaps as extra preparation for the match with Sato (and another payoff), Gomi returned to Contenders for Contenders 5: M~1 (June 10, 2001) and Contenders 6: MM-21 Limited Edition (October 8, 2001) shows. At the June show, Gomi beat Yuji Hoshino (RJW/Central) with a score 40 - 37.

However, Gomi's greatest victory in competitive hooking would come at MM-21, when he defeated the last man to beat Sato, Caol Uno, with a score of 59 - 56. Always looked at by the Association as an ace of SHOOTO, Sato cemented his spot by defeating Cromado on that August's SHOOTO card. Unfortunately for Sato, championship gold alluded him again, December 16, 2001, when Gomi defeated him to become the SHOOTO World Welterweight (65 - 70kg) Champion. 2001 was Gomi's year. The 6th All-Japan Combat Wrestling Championships occurred March 24, 2002. In the 67 - 74 kg division, Takanori Gomi came out the Champion. In the preliminaries, Gomi defeated Kinugawa(?) (B-Club) with a 42 second JujiGatame (Straight Armbar), and then 1999 All-Japan 3rd ranked Greco-Roman wrestler, Tatsufumi Tsuchida with a Heel Hook. In the quarter-finals, he beat Hideki Kanai (RJW) before making it to the seminfinals, where he outscored Hiroyuki Kojima. The Championship was won by Gomi when he submitted Hiroki Kotani (brother of Naoyuki Kotani) with an armbar. Then on April 25, Kiguchi Gym held another grappling show" that ncluded one in which Gomi defeated his old rival (from 1998) Yasushi Miyake with a score of 1-0. He also fit into his schedule that year two victories in SHOOTO against Leonardo Santos and the seasoned Chris Brennan. However, at the December 14, 2002 year-end show, Gomi finally had to answer to the challenge of the hungry Dokonjonosuke Mishima*. After defeating Ryan Bow the night Gomi beat Sato, Mishima* would win 3 MMA consecutive fights including one TKO and two submission wins: against Ben Thomas (punching TKO, SHOOTO Treasure Hunt 7, February 11, 2002 in about 3 minutes) ,against Iran Mascarenhas (Achilles Lock, SHOOTO Treasure Hunt 7, June 29, 2002, R2 4:53), and one representing SHOOTO against PANCRASE vs Takafumi Ito (armbar, DEEP 6th Impact, September 7, 2002, in less than a minute).

In the first round of the fight, after a few trade-offs, Mishima* got a clean punch on Gomi of which he responded by hitting himself to taunt Mishima*. As the second round began, Mishima* tried a take to avoid strikes only to get tagged with a hook and a 10 count from the ref. He beat the count, but Gomi hit a knee and another punch knocking Mishima* half-way out between the middle and bottom ropes. As the ref attempted to step in, Gomi moved him aside and continued to pound on Mishima* until the bell rang in his favor, R2 0:52. 2003 began uneventful for Gomi as he submitted Nick Ertl in February at Korakuen Hall in under 5 minutes. However, a viable contender appeared in the form of Norway's Joachim Hansen after Hansen TKOs RUMINA Sato with punches less than a month later also at Korakuen Hall. Hansen first impressed the Association earlier in December, when he beat SHOOTO fighter TAKUMI (Nakayama).

However, Gomi had a commitment to Kiguchi's, and so represented them a few days after Hansen's victory over Sato, at the 8th Annual All-Japan Combat Wrestling Championships' 67 - 74 kg division, February 23, 2003. In a preliminary match, the SHOOTO King tapped a kid from rival PANCRASE's P's Lab with what was called a "Viper" Crank, which is a spine lock where the legs are compressed towards the head. In the seminfinals, Gomi defeated his rival from last year, Hiroaki Kotani, with a decision. However, in the finals, Gomi finally served his grappling rival, Yasushi Miyake, with a choke submission at 2:52 to become the 8th All-Japan Combat Wrestling Championships' 67 - 74 kg division Champion. The day finally arrived when Gomi and Hansen fought at the Yokohama Bunka Arena, August 23, 2003, at which Hansen beat Gomi, giving him his first pro MMA defeat. Not satisfied with his performance, Gomi travels to Hawaii exactly two months later and fights B.J. Penn at Rumble at the Rock 5, October 10, 2003, in a fight which Gomi and Penn traded strong strikes but ultimately saw Penn use his strength to attain a Rear Naked Choke submission applied to win.

Though his face was bludgeoned and bloodied, and he sustained a number of injuries, Gomi would still aid his friend/rival Caol Uno (who himself was having a hard year, drawing against B.J.Penn in a hard fought match, and then being knocked out by ATT's Hermes Franca) and form a tag team with him at the Contenders Q Doubles Tournament, December 5, 2003.

On that night, Gomi and Uno began with a victory over Gomi's rival Hiroki (now Hiroaki) Kotani and his partner/gym mate Eiji Murayama when Uno choked out Murayama at 7:52. Unfortunately, the year ended on a lower note for Uno and Gomi when they lost a unanimous decision to the eventual tourney winners, Hiroshi Tsuruya (PARAESTRA Matsudo) and rising SHOOTO fighter Daisuke "AMAZON" Sugie (ALIVE). In late 2003, DSE began their spin-off to their PRIDE shows, BUSHIDO. Gomi was to be one of their aces but was not able to be brought in for their first show. Gomi finally debuted for BUSHIDO at their second event, February 15, 2004, where outstruck Chute Boxe's Jadson Costa, and then TKOed him via Ground and Pound.

His first big win would come at BUSHIDO 3, May 23, 2004, when he TKOed the undefeated Ralph Gracie with knees in 6 seconds. After TKOing BTT's Fabio Mello at BUSHIDO 4 in July in about 8 minutes, Gomi fought the charismatic Charles "Krazy Horse Bennett" at BUSHIDO 5, October 14, 2004, and defeated Bennett in under 6 minutes with a Kimura technical submission. At PRIDE's big New Year's Eve show, Shockwave 2003 (in Japan it is Otoko Matsuri, which translates to the Festival of Man), Gomi attained perhaps the biggest win in his career knocking out former UFC champ, Jens Pulver, after outboxing him, and hitting a knee, then a hook at 6:52, and was able to end the old year and begin the new with a win.

May 22, 2005's BUSHIDO 7 was one of controversy for Gomi as he defeated, in 3:46, his skilled opponent, Chute Boxe's Luiz Azeredo, who nearly outboxed him, and continued to bludgeon him with punches even after the bell was rung and the match ended. Chute Boxe attempted to avenge their loss at BUSHIDO 8, July 17, 2005, when their fighter, then-Cage Rage Champion, Jean Silva fought Gomi. Throughout their fight, Silva's handstand Capoeira kicks were able to keep Gomi back at bay. However, at the end of the match, Gomi still won the decision. Due to Gomi and the lightweights' growing popularity with the mainstream Japanese viewers, PRIDE decided that perhaps they need to book a tournament to highlight the talent of the division and the PRIDE BUSHIDO Lightweight Gran Prix was booked for September 25, 2005. While previously training for his fight against Azeredo, Gomi began to train on the side with 1997 Shin-Kyokushin Kai Karate All-Japan Lightweight Champion. Unhappy with his recent performances against Chute Boxe, Gomi decided to step up with his Karate training.

Meanwhile, Tatsuya Kawajiri, who became the SHOOTO World Welterweight Champion in December 2004, and debut for PRIDE at BUSHIDO 7, at this time doubled up on his challenges to Gomi, attempting rile him up in the media. Gomi's answers to these catcalls were stating that Kawajiri was not ready yet. However, PRIDE decided otherwise and Kawajiri vs Gomi was booked as a preliminary round BUSHIDO Lightweight GP fight. As the bell sounded to start the fight, even though the two men began to cautiously feel each other out, the Saitama crowd was hot and cheered louder than most if not all previous PRIDE fights.

Punches and low Roundhouse kicks were exchanged between the two, but eventually Gomi connected a strike on Kawajiri sending the kid down, and then Gomi pounded until Kawajiri exposed his back for a Rear Naked Choke submission at 7:42. In the main event of that night, Gomi was once again face to face with his rival, Luiz Azeredo, who had dispatched Naoyuki Kotani in less than a minute. However, due to the crispness of Gomi's strikes wearing Azeredo down, Gomi was given the decision win.

After the match ended, a man with dyed-orange hair entered the ring: his mentor Hayato MACH Sakurai who had bested both Jens Pulver and Joachim Hansen earlier in the evening. New Year's Eve will be a very memorable day in the lives of both Hayato MACH Sakurai, and his opponent that night, his protégé, Takanori Gomi.