Four years ago, Tatsuya Kawajiri succumbed to a rear-naked choke from Takanori Gomi at Pride “Bushido 9” at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo. Now 31, the former Shooto champion has not forgotten the sting of defeat that night in September 2005, and if fate sees fit, he wants another crack at the one-time Pride Fighting Championships lightweight king.
Gomi (30-5, 1 NC) knocked out Takashi Nakakura at a Shooto event in May, as he snapped a two-fight losing streak. It seems his demise may have been greatly overexaggerated.
“He was very strong. There is no point in comparing his past and present since it may mean that he improved,” Kawajiri said. “Ultimately, if I have the chance and if that’s what the fans wish to see, I’d like to fight him again. He’s my arch rival.”
Kawajiri expected Gomi to rebound from losses to Sergey Golyaev and Satoru Kitaoka inside the Sengoku promotion.
“He was different from the Gomi that I fought,” he said. “I knew he was better.”
Kawajiri (24-5-2) also has designs on a rematch with Caol Uno, whom he battled to a draw at a Shooto event in March 2004. Uno, however, returned to the UFC earlier this month and lost a unanimous decision to Spencer Fisher in Germany.
“I’m not so concerned about the rematch not taking place,” Kawajiri said. “I hope he does well in the UFC. It takes a lot of courage to fight in the UFC today. If we keep on fighting, we might as well meet again in the ring. Only time will tell.”
In the meantime, as he prepares for a K-1 rules match with Masato Kobayashi on July 13 in Tokyo, Kawajiri plans to monitor the Dream featherweight grand prix and teammate Hiroyuki Takaya.
“I would like to see him win since I train with him,” Kawajiri said. “I also believe he has all the tools to win the tournament.”
He sees Hideo Tokoro -- a submission winner against Abel Cullum at Dream 9 -- as the darkhorse.
“The one fighter who you have to keep an eye on is Hideo Tokoro. He seems to have something outside of his abilities. To keep winning in a tournament like this, you need to bring in luck and catch the flow of the tournament for things to go your way. Coming up with a submission win the way he did after three straight defeats -- that’s amazing. He isn’t your ordinary fighter.”