James Nakashima Calls Out ONE Welterweight Champion Kiamrian Abbasov
It’s been over a year since James Nakashima last stepped inside the ONE Circle, where he secured a unanimous decision victory over veteran Yushin Okami, at ONE: Dawn Of Heroes. The welterweight remains undefeated in mixed martial arts competition at 12-0.
The American almost finished his Japanese opponent but sustained an injury during the fight and had to be helped out of the ONE Circle. Speaking to ONE Championship, the 31-year-old recalled the bout.
“Deep down, looking at where my game was, the Okami fight was a good fight for me,” Nakashima said. “I thought I maybe could have had the finish, but it didn’t come.”
Afterwards, ‘Nako’ immediately looked to strengthen areas that he considered to be weak. Despite nagging injuries, he continued to train, first working on his striking with Giorgio Petrosyan in Milan. Then returning to MMA Lab in Phoenix to further improve his techniques.
“I had a pretty bad MCL and ACL sprain in the Okami fight, so that took about three months to heal, but I still trained through it as much as I could. I spent about half of that time in Italy with Team Petrosyan. It was my third tour out there, and it kind of healed out there,” Nakashima said.
“Overall, I didn’t like where my game was at. I didn’t like where my stand-up was at. I didn’t like where my ground game was at, in terms of being able to finish people. David Michaud, Benson Henderson, my main training partners, and a couple of division-one wrestlers helped me out a lot.”
“I Feel Like I Reinvented My Game”
Just when things were looking up, the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to ONE Championship’s activities. Travel restrictions were put in place and gyms were closed. But Nakashima was undeterred in his efforts to get better.
“I decided to take that into my own hands,” he said. “I got my own mats, and I got this nice carport out [in the] back of our house. I have some of my friends come over every day, and we just run those stand-up drills that we run in Italy. I’m happy with where my game’s at and where I’m going.
“I feel like since early March, I’ve built a foundation with really simple, basic techniques in jiu-jitsu, stand-up, and wrestling. I work a lot of boxing with my coach, and during [the lockdown], me and my coach were still able to do individual workouts once or twice a week.
“But I feel like the importance of me just taking the initiative that the coronavirus forced me to take, to work on the things that I needed to address, I feel like I reinvented my game.”
Kiamrian Abbasov Next?
With ONE Championship announcing the return of its global events from next month, Nakashima is excited to make his return. This time, he has his eye on reigning ONE welterweight champion, Kiamrian Abbasov. The Kyrgyz fighter claimed the title after defeating Zebaztian Kadestam at ONE: Dawn Of Valor last October.
“He’s a really tough, hard-nosed fighter,” Nakashima said of Abbasov. “I think he’s kind of green, technically. He has a lot of power and explosion. I’m ready to go. I’d love to fight him.”
Nakashima believes he is the obvious choice to challenge for the title next, and knows he has what it takes to beat ‘Brazen’ and claim the belt.
“I’ve done everything I can. I’ve beaten the person he lost to (Luis Santos). I’m next in line,” Nakashima said.
“I don’t think there’s any way anybody in the world, let alone Abbasov, can hold me down. His stand-up is powerful, and it’s going to be the most important part of the fight for me.
“As far as pace, he ain’t going to be there for 25 minutes. I’m going to be there because he just doesn’t want it as bad as I do. It’s that pace and pressure that’s special that I’ve developed.”
Do you think James Nakashima can dethrone the ONE welterweight champion, Kiamrian Abbasov?