Mixed martial arts (MMA) makes formidable demands on competitors. Faced with moves including ‘guillotine chokes’, fighters may wind up looking like car crash victims, which explains why sites devoted to MMA have names like bloodyelbow.com and mmabloodbath.com.
But, MMA is far from the steel-cage death-match you might think. MMA, it seems, is strategic. Certainly, it is eclectic: a mash-up. Besides wrestling and kickboxing, fighters deploy interdisciplinary martial forms including jiu-jitsu, judo and karate.
One of the most legendary figures in the complex sport with the redneck rap is Tokyo showman, Akihiro Gono, 36. Gono is famous for his clever and deceptive fighting style and theatrical entrances into the signature MMA ring coolly called the Octagon.
Learn more about the so-called ‘Japanese sensation’ skilled in fighting forms ranging from the gentle art of judo to ferocious muay-thai.
Eight sides of Akihiro Gono
1. Akihiro Gono is nicknamed Magic Man –- a nod to his Houdini-style ability to outwit adversaries and achieve bizarre submissions when he looks beat.
2. Gono comes from Higashikurume: a slice of Tokyo better known for music than martial artists. Gono started mixed martial arts at 18, to be popular with girls. It worked, he claims.
3. Gono trains at Grabaka: a contraction of the phrase ‘grappling baka’, baka being the Japanese word for ‘clown’. But you need to be smart to master the disciplines taught at Grabaka, which has a syllabus featuring Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, boxing, wrestling, submission grappling, judo, conditioning and MMA.
4. Gono’s shtick is a mix of boxing and judo, which centers on absorbing your opponent’s momentum and using it against him. Recently, Gono has leaned toward the Thai ‘science of eight limbs’, muay thai, which is very different – one of the most destructive fighting styles on the map.
5. Unlike other fighters, Gono avoids down-and-dirty groundwork grappling. The bearded welterweight is all about deftly dodging strikes, deploying lightning counter-punches and persuading the opponent to fight his way. His tricky style fuels the view that mixed martial artists are more than just badass street fighters. MMA fighters train hard, too. On his Japanese blog, Gono mentions doing a ‘fat-burning’ 15-kilometer (9-mile) run, which helps explain his high def abs. He is, as they say, ‘shredded’.
6. Gono has boosted his profile through adopting a flamboyant persona. Think orange wig and zebra-striped fighting briefs. His entrance is one of the wildest in the MMA business. Gono’s performances mimic the eccentric and scandalous Japanese musician DJ Ozma. Away from the razzmatazz, Gono is a snappy dresser, who has been described as the best-dressed fighter in mixed martial arts.
7. Gono’s real idol is Roy Jones Junior – the boxer once seen as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
8. Like any figure in the bear pit world of mixed martial arts, Gono has taken some hits. This one, against Illinois native Dan Hornbuckle, prompted a commentator to say that Gono was sleeping with his ancestors. But Gono bounced back. He ranks as one of the most relentless competitors in mixed martial arts’ brief and brutal history.