How quickly one can fall. In 2006 Takanori Gomi was renowned as the greatest lightweight on the planet and one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world. In just under two years Gomi has gone from King of the Castle to one of the biggest letdowns in MMA today. It appears the “Fireball Kid” no longer has any fire.
February 24, 2007. It was the final Pride FC show in the United States and Gomi was one of the stars that was to carry the card. He was 13-1 in his last 14 fights and he was Pride’s poster boy. American Nick Diaz was being fed to Gomi in what was to be a showcase of the Pride champion. But this appeared to be the beginning of the end for the Japanese lightweight.
He looked exhausted against Diaz just a few minutes into round one, and eventually lost to a submission in the second round. Gomi looked like he had found out about the fight 5 minutes prior to going into the ring. Diaz later tested positive for marijuana and the fight was ruled a no contest. It didn’t matter. The damage was done. Gomi looked nothing like his usual self, but even his critics waited patiently for his next fight to determine if that was a fluke or if the man who went 14-0 to start his pro career just didn’t have it anymore.
Then the wheels fell off again. Gomi was defeated by Russian Sergey Golyaev in a close and controversial decision that many thought Gomi won. But taking Golyaev (a man with an 11-6 record who had only 1 fight in the previous 2 years) to a decision was a loss to Gomi no matter what the decision.
Then just this last weekend, with the heavily marketed Gomi fighting for the title on the same card where the unknown Golyaev appeared on the undercard, Gomi was beaten again. And it took submission expert Satoru Kitaoka only 1:41 to finish off the former number 1 fighter in the world with a heel hook, that Gomi had to tap to. In Gomi’s defense Kitaoka is a solid fighter, but in 40 career fights, he had only won 23.
2-3 in his last 5 fights against 0 top 10 fighters. You’d be hard pressed to find a top 20 in those 5.
What has gone wrong with Gomi is anyone’s guess. Maybe after going 29-3 and being told he was the best fighter under 155 lbs in the world, he loss his drive. Maybe his lightning quick hands have slowed down a notch, which leaves him unable to put anyone away. Maybe he simply has lost the will to fight, something that often goes unnoticed, even by the fighter as their career ages quickly.
No matter what happens next, Gomi fans and foes will be watching closely. To see if his career will continue to plummet in what is quickly becoming one of the largest drops in MMA ranking history.
Or to see if Gomi can recapture the magic that made him one of the most well rounded and feared fighters in the world. But until “The Fireball Kid” can find his fire once again, those fans will be waiting a very long time.