TOKYO -- It may be a year before the mixed martial arts world sees Takanori Gomi compete again. Once regarded as the world’s top lightweight, consecutive losses -- the latest by submission to Sengoku champion Satoru Kitaoka on Sunday -- have “The Fireball Kid” recalibrating his instruments.
“I would like to return to training the basics, maybe take half a year or a year off and rebuild myself physically,” Gomi said. “Then, I’d like to take on some foreign fighters and, of course, Kitaoka. I started my own gym two years ago, and I’m happy that my students are getting stronger, but it’s not exactly top-class training with them. I’d like to get back to that top training.”
Kitaoka (24-8-9) was outspoken about his dislike for Gomi during the run-up to their fight at Sengoku “No Ran 2009” at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. He submitted the former Pride Fighting Championships lightweight titleholder with an Achilles lock in the first round. Kitaoka challenged Gomi (29-5, 1 NC) to a rematch afterwards.
“I don’t regret my comments, but as the champion, I have to learn how to act as a champion and still be myself,” Kitaoka said. “[Sunday] night, I suddenly asked Gomi for a rematch. After hearing his post-fight interview comments, I’m glad that he’s taking my request seriously and that he praised me, despite how selfishly I spoke about him.”
When asked about what the future held, Kitaoka reaffirmed his interest in a second bout with Gomi, a man who holds two double-digit winning streaks in his career.
“I was thinking about rematching him even before [Sunday] night’s fight,” Kitaoka said. “In the Sengoku ring, Gomi would draw the most people. As the champion, I want to help draw lots of attention, so a rematch with Gomi would be the right fight for me.”
Kitaoka finished Gomi in 1:41, handing the 30-year-old the quickest defeat of his career. In finishing the match so decisively, Kitaoka now has the opportunity to bask in the spotlight once enjoyed by “The Fireball Kid.”
“I don’t think [I’m top 10], but I think I have the potential to beat anyone,” Kitaoka said. “I’m a Pancrase fighter, and that’s my pride. That’s enough for me. If the world recognizes that there’s an event called Sengoku and that there’s a fighter named Kitaoka in it, I’d be very happy.”
American Top Team’s Jorge Santiago, meanwhile, had trouble grasping the submission victory over Kazuo Misaki that made him Sengoku’s first middleweight champion at “No Ran 2009.”
“I’m so happy; I haven’t realized it yet,” Santiago said. “[Monday] morning, I woke up and was, like, ‘Man, I made it.’ It was exactly the way I dreamed.”
Santiago’s road has been a long one. After dropping two of three fights in the UFC, the middleweight rebuilt himself outside the Octagon. He won a Strikeforce middleweight tournament in 2007, only to enter his name into another tournament -- the Sengoku middleweight grand prix -- upon arriving in Japan.
“As soon as I landed here in Japan, I was, like, ‘Man, I want to build something big in this place,’” Santiago said. “And right after the tournament, I knew I was going to get this belt. I came here with a lot of confidence. I’ve been through a lot of injuries and everything, but I just got over it. I put my mind together and fought with all my heart. [The title] means a lot to me.”
Santiago (21-7) claimed he fought injured through most of the tournament. He defeated Yuki Sasaki, Logan Clark, Siyar Bahadurzada and Kazuhiro Nakamura to win the grand prix. None of the fights reached the judges.
“After the Nakamura fight, I broke my hand for the third time,” Santiago said as he raised his bandaged right hand. “When I came here and fought Sasaki the first time, too, I broke it. I just worked my jab [on Misaki] and was thinking, ‘I don’t care. I just want that belt.’”