December 12, 2006

Editorial Column by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com

in·ane [i-neyn]
– adjective
1. lacking sense, significance, or ideas; silly: inane questions.
2. empty; void.

My overt disdain for inane non-title matches continues…

Why? Why must Pride make the ambitious announcement that there will be more title defenses in the future and schedule a non-title fight between Takanori Gomi and Mitsuhiro Ishida? On the biggest event of the year, why would DSE contradict themselves and do the very thing that’s garnered the company criticism?

It’s understandable to hold a non-title fight if there are no available title contenders. However, Ishida is a legitimate contender. He may not be the most exciting fighter but no one can deny his wrestling prowess and ability to control his opponents on the ground. In his four Pride appearances, he has defeated Paul Rodriguez, Marcus Aurelio, Cristiano Marcello, and David Bielkheden. The latter three opponents were Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts and Mitsuhiro was able to control them and defended well against submission attempts.

Takanori Gomi is synonymous with Pride Bushido and the Japanese star helped build the show to what it is today. Much to the dismay of some disputant fans, Gomi is here to stay and has proven his merit with impressive victories. However, after his shocking non-title loss to Marcus Aurelio, he hasn’t been quite the same. Gomi avenged his loss in their second meeting at Bushido 13, earning a rather insipid and tentative unanimous decision over Aurelio. Although he retained his title, fans had to endure an uninspired fight.

Ishida is in a no-win situation. If he is defeated on New Year’s, he would lose his place as a title contender. What makes that scenario even worse is that it won’t even be for the title. Should Ishida win, he’d be a champion without a belt. Consequently, he’d have to fight and defeat Gomi again in order to officially claim his crown. On a positive note, Ishida is getting an opportunity to face top level opposition in the “Fireball Kid” and it’s a fight that fans want to see.

So what is Pride’s reasoning behind this non-title fight? Is it to make for a more exciting fight knowing that the champion has nothing to lose? Not taking anything away from Gomi but why should a champion need a non-title fight to make it exciting? A title holder should bring 100% of his game to every fight. If Gomi was fearful of Aurelio’s takedowns in their rematch, he’s going to have a very long night with Ishida.

When Gomi beat Hayato “Mach” Sakurai at last year’s Shockwave show, he became Pride’s very first Japanese champion. It’s in DSE’s best interest to have at least one Japanese champion. Last I recall, Ishida was also Japanese. So what’s the problem?

We all know that Gomi is a very marketable fighter. Conversely, Ishida’s controlling style won’t sell tickets alone. The disparity in marketing potential may have caused Pride to setup the non-title fight as their insurance policy. Simply put, Pride wants to protect their ‘golden boy’. Sounds plausible? Maybe.

Conspiracy theories aside, I absolutely see no justification for Pride to schedule a non-title fight between Takanori Gomi and Mitsuhiro Ishida. To put it bluntly, Ishida got the shaft. Regardless who wins this upcoming fight, Gomi’s opponent will be the one disrespected. It’s apparent that DSE have not learned from their previous mistake. Let’s hope that this will be the last non-title fight that Pride intends on having.