A teary-eyed Akihiro Gono announced his retirement at the Bellator 67 post-fight press conference, after being knocked out in the first round by lightweight champion Michael Chandler. The announcement was met with a standing ovation from everyone in the room, a rarity for a press event.
Gono was in a very emotional state, fighting back tears and his voice cracking as he issued the following statement through a translator:
I’ve fought many tough fighters all over the world, and I finally came here. Bjorn gave me a great opportunity to fight the champion and I totally appreciate that. It was such a happy moment fighting in Bellator. But I couldn’t produce the right result. I am done as an MMA fighter. When I go back to Japan, maybe I will bring out my boxing gloves and do a couple of boxing matches, then maybe I’ll call it quits as a fighter. But as a fighter, I got to face the champion at the end and I got to experience such a happy moment here. I’m so sorry I couldn’t produce a good result.
The 37 year old Gono has fought in many of the world’s top organizations including Pancrase, Shooto, DEEP, Pride, Sengoku and UFC before finishing his career in Bellator. He has fought many of the top names in the sport including Dan Henderson, Shogun and Ninja Rua, Yuki Kondo, Chael Sonnen, Hector Lombard and Gegard Mousasi just to name a few.
He will be remembered for his unorthodox style and natural charisma, which often saw him come to the cage in his “DJ Gozma” persona complete with outlandish outfits and wigs.
When asked to look back on his career, Gono showed class and deference, choosing instead to make the moment about the people around him:
When I first came to America and fought for the UFC, I realized I need to learn English. I started taking English lessons and yesterday at the weigh-ins, I was able to speak English to everybody. That was one of the greatest moments of my career.
Gono leaves behind an incredible legacy in the sport and those who witnessed him fight will never forget.