Takanori Gomi Signs With The UFC

Takanori Gomi Signs With The UFCIn a move that adds intrigue and excitement to an already impressive division, former PRIDE Lightweight Champion Takanori “Fireball Kid” Gomi has signed with the UFC and will debut for the promotion in 2010. The former long-time king of the lightweight division opted to sign with the UFC over Strikeforce after weeks of discussions with both.

The signing potentially paves the way for a rematch between Gomi and UFC Lightweight Champion BJ Penn, who submitted Gomi in 2003, but the Japanese ace will first have to fight through a talent-rich UFC roster.

Gomi (31-5-0, 1 ND) reigned supreme in Shooto from late 1998 to 2003 and won 14 straight fights in the process, including victories over the legendary Rumina “Moon Wolf” Sato and future DEEP Champion Dokonjonosuke Mishima in Shooto Welterweight Championship bouts. Gomi lost his Shooto title to former DREAM Lightweight Champion Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen in August 2003 and was submitted by Penn exactly two months later.

Following the loss to Penn, Gomi joined Pride Fighting Championships. He won 10 consecutive fights and captured the PRIDE Lightweight Championship by defeating Hayato “Mach” Sakurai at PRIDE Shockwave 2005. Among Gomi’s other victims were former UFC champ Jens “Lil’ Evil” Pulver and then-Shooto titleholder Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri. The bout with Kawajiri was voted 2005 PRIDE Fight of the Year.

However, Gomi was unable to keep up the momentum from the title win over Sakurai and he was choked unconscious three months later by Marcus “Maximus” Aurelio at PRIDE Bushido 10. The shocking non-title loss raised doubt as to Gomi’s standing in the division, but he rebounded with three more wins and successfully defended his title in a lacklustre rematch with Aurelio at PRIDE Bushido 13 in November 2006.

At the fateful PRIDE 33 event on February 24, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Gomi squared off with UFC veteran Nick Diaz in one of the most action-packed, bizarre and entertaining bouts of the year. Gomi battered and bloodied Diaz for much of the first round – breaking Diaz’s orbital bone in the process – before completely gassing out and succumbing to a gogoplata.

While Gomi’s loss was overturned when Diaz tested positive for marijuana after the fight, the damage had been done and rumours surfaced that suggested that Gomi had not trained for the fight and had spent considerable time partying while in the United States. With his reputation tarnished, Gomi sat out the remainder of 2007 after PRIDE’s closure and later joined the upstart Sengoku promotion.

Once the most feared lightweight in the world, Gomi met with mixed success in Sengoku and seemingly fell off of the MMA radar entirely. A highly controversial decision loss to Sergey Golaev was followed by a quick submission defeat at the hands of former Sengoku Lightweight Champion Satoru Kitaoka and Gomi departed Sengoku in early 2009. Now coming off of two straight wins in Shooto, Gomi will look to return to former glory and dominance when he enters the Octagon in 2010.

Still one of the most dangerous and explosive lightweights in the world, Gomi will make an excellent addition to the UFC as he tests himself against a new set of top-ranked fighters. Should Gomi enjoy the same success that propelled him to championships in Shooto and PRIDE, a second battle with BJ Penn could potentially be the challenge that Penn needs in his career, as he continues to stay three steps ahead of the rest of the division.