After months of speculation, and a fall from grace, mmafighting.com’s Ariel Herwani is reporting that former PRIDE lightweight kingpin and long-time champion Takanori Gomi has signed with the UFC.
The last two years have been quite trying for the former top-ranked fighter. After the fall of PRIDE, Gomi joined the start-up Sengoku where he was to be the face of the new promotion. After a 2-0 start which saw him capture the Lightweight Championship, he lost a split decision to relative unknown Sergey Golyaev. He followed this up with a loss to submission ace Satoru Kitaoka in under two minutes, resulting in the loss of his championship.
“The Fireball Kid” knew something needed to be changed and returned to his roots for the rest of 2009. In May, Gomi defeated Shooto Lightweight Champion Takashi Nakakura in a non-title bout and followed this with a unanimous decision victory over Tony Hervey in October.
Following his Shooto encounters, many rumours and stories circulated about Gomi. Originally it was reported that Gomi was going to leave the sport in favour of a surfing career which he had been wanting to explore. In late November, FIGHT! Posted a video of Gomi training at AKA, making it seem as though Gomi had changed his mind.
Gomi’s run in the UFC will truly be used as a scale to tell just how good his run through PRIDE was. If he fails to succeed, the naysayers will argue that his PRIDE success was because of a list of lacklustre opponents put in their to make Gomi look good.
Does Gomi have enough left to make a run at a rematch with Penn, or is his time as a formidable force in the lightweight division over? Only time will tell.