The day before his fight at UFC Fight Night 117, The Fireball Kid turned 39.Let that sink in for a second. Takanori Gomi, who lost his fifth consecutive fight via first-round stoppage, is now nearly 40 years old and still playing this game of diminishing returns. He gets dropped easier and easier. His fights are over quicker. The best thing you can say about his TKO loss to Dong Hyun Kim is that at least it ended before he had a chance to take too much damage.
Afterwards, Gomi stood there staring at the canvas, and all fans could do was hope that this was the one that might convince him to stop.
This is not unfamiliar territory for combat sports, but it doesnt get any easier just because weve seen it before. Thats especially true for Gomi (35-14 MMA, 4-9 UFC), who was beautiful once but now mostly gets trotted out when the UFC needs an easy reminder of the Japanese scenes former glory.Gomi hasnt won a fight in over three years. Hes been finished by strikes in four of his last five. His name value has prevented the UFC from giving him any easy fight since he came over in 2010, when his best days already seemed behind him. Now the damage has clearly piled up along with the losses, and the one-punch power that used to come to his rescue is as long gone as the days of big MMA crowds at Saitama Super Arena.
Looking on social media right after the fight, I saw the same sentiment repeated over and over in different words. We want to see Gomi retire, and we want it at least as much for our own good as for his.
This, too, is familiar territory. Its hard to watch our heroes get old. We know it has to happen, but cant they at least have the decency to do it in private where we dont have to watch? Theyre bumming us out, man. This isnt what we signed up for.
Except that, really, we did.
This is how it goes. This is the unfortunate part of the fighter life cycle that so few manage to avoid. If you get famous enough that people will still pay to see you because of who you used to be, its hard to stop cashing the checks and dreaming of glory.
Only now were sick of it. Its not just that we dont want to see Gomi continue to hurt himself, though thats a part of it too. But mainly its that we dont want him to keep showing up as an all too real reminder of decay and decline.
Watching a formerly great fighter go steeply downhill feels like someone poisoning your memories. It forces us to keep two different versions of the same fighter in our heads: the old Gomi and the old Gomi.
Thats the main reason wed like him to quit. Wed rather not watch him destroy himself along with our preferred concept of him. Each time he loses another one and then walks off without retiring, it feels like a promise that theres worse yet to come.
And that may very well be true. But for our own selfish reasons, wed really rather not be reminded of it.For complete coverage ofUFC Fight Night 117, check out theUFC Eventssection of the site.