Gomi, Barnett Discuss Plans After WVR Debut

By Tony Loiseleur Mar 6, 2008
TOKYO, March 5 -- With World Victory Road's inaugural event in the books, the fighters of Sengoku wished their new home show continued success in their post-fight comments Wednesday evening.

Japanese lightweight ace Takanori Gomi (Pictures) defeated Duane Ludwig (Pictures) by TKO in the first round and appeared satisfied with his return performance against the American after a 14-month layoff.

With the world's top lightweights either in the UFC or K-1's new promotion, Dream, Gomi is apparently the only top lightweight in World Victory Road's upstart Sengoku show. Asked if he would lack challenges in the promotion, a confident but elusive Gomi replied that he did not believe it would be a problem and that future challenges would surely find their way to him in Sengoku.

"If we continue to have a clean, wonderful event like this, of course the fans will be gathering from all around to see the fights," Gomi said. "And of course if the fans are coming, the events will be bigger, and of course other fighters will want to fight in this event.

"That's why I'm not worried about that kind of stuff right now."

With Dream locking down the country's lightweight talent for its stacked lightweight grand prix, the winner of the yearlong tournament could most likely be the usurper to Gomi's throne. Despite efforts to tease out a prediction from the Pride lightweight champ, Gomi would not comment or support any particular fighter.

"I can't predict who's going to win because most of the fighters I know," Gomi said with a wry smile. "All those young fighters are doing their best to have great fights there, so really, I just want to go see the fights and cheer them on."

As for top-10 lightweights across the Pacific, questions about UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn (Pictures) also arose in the post-fight discussion. Gomi, who lost to a dominating Penn in 2003, mildly expressed his desire for a rematch against the Hawaiian.

"I just came back to fight after a long layoff and I'd like to make myself more fit and more of a complete fighter before fighting B.J. Penn (Pictures)," Gomi said. "For this fight [with Ludwig], I sparred and did weight training. I was concerned about the physical aspects of my body. I want to perfect [it] before a fight with B.J. Penn (Pictures)."

Regarding the UFC, Gomi had been quoted in the past as only wanting to attend the event in Las Vegas rather than actually compete in the Octagon. Gomi mentioned Wednesday his continued desire to frequent the American event, and his New Year's Eve attendance of UFC 79 was just the beginning of what he would like to be a regular occurrence.

"Actually, I'd like to ask the organizers of Sengoku not to [give me] a fight on New Year's Eve because I want to go to Las Vegas to see the fights in the UFC," the Japanese star replied with an embarrassed chuckle.

"Of course I'd like to fight, but at the same time on NYE, I want to go see the UFC for sure."

After defeating judo gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida (Pictures) by a heel hook in the third round, the MMA avatar of catch wrestling, Josh Barnett (Pictures), also lent his continued support to WVR's Sengoku.

"Every week, till the end of the year, 150 fights, until the contract ends," quipped Barnett about his contractual commitment to Sengoku before returning to seriousness. "At this point, I'm looking forward to helping push Sengoku forward. That's what I'm here for."

Barnett also commented on the evening's announcement of Kevin Randleman (Pictures) and Roger Gracie (Pictures) as additions to the Sengoku lineup, stating that while he would prefer not to fight another friend in Randleman, he is certainly prepared to take on either fighter.

"Either one is fine, but Randleman I've known a very long time," Barnett said. "We're friends, and it's kind of like fighting Yoshida-san again. You don't want to have to fight your friends, but of course, we're professionals. That just can't be avoided."

Barnett also had what appeared to be uncharacteristic praise for Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter Roger Gracie (Pictures).

"Anybody would love to fight a Gracie," he said. "That's a great name. He's got a great resume for grappling. As a fighter, he's young and untested and inexperienced, but I don't think he's a weak guy. I think he'd give the best fight he could, and the Gracie name is not where it is today because they're slouches."

Barnett explained that while his immediate future is unclear, he hopes to return to fighting soon.

"Right now, it's icing the injuries. I have to recover," Barnett said of what's next for him. "I want to look forward to the next opportunity to fight, either in Sengoku or who knows where. But I have to stay sharp.

"The one thing I have planned is April 12 in Osaka, for the Inoki Genome Federation," the heavyweight noted, taking the time to promote his professional wrestling endeavors.

WVR heads of state Naoya Kinoshita and Tokuhiro Kokuho also announced their plans for their second and third events. Tentatively scheduled for May 18 and June 8, WVR will hold Sengoku shows at Ariake Coliseum and Saitama Super Arena -- the current home venue of Dream -- respectively, with the intention of hosting a grand prix in a to-be-determined weight class.
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