James Nakashima’s Unending Pursuit For Excellence

Ever since Sweden’s Zebaztian Kadestam claimed the vacant ONE Welterweight World Championship last November at ONE: Warrior’s Dream the division has gone from strength to strength.

Kadestam’s action-packed style of mixed martial arts coupled with several new welterweight signings including Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame member Sage Northcutt, has helped usher in an exciting new era for the division.

Undefeated American James “Nako” Nakashima is one of the recent recruits and after his debut bout at ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS, the 30-year-old former college wrestler is already knocking on the door of a World Title shot.

Nakashima is scheduled to meet ONE Championship veteran Luis “Sapo” Santos this Friday, 12 April at ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR inside Manila’s Mall Of Asia Arena.

“Nako” arrived in ONE with a lot of hype swirling around his name. The Illinois native had honed his craft at Legacy Fighting Alliance, a regional promotion in the States, where he became known for his world-class grappling and inexhaustible gas tank.

Both of these attributes were on display throughout his ONE debut when he defeated the high-rated unbeaten Russian Raimond Magomedaliev via unanimous decision.

“He [Magomedaliev] won the first round, and it was tight, but I feel that he landed a few more than I did,” Nakashima said.

“I kind of always count on my pressure and my pace and my combination of wrestling and striking to break my opponents down. I was not sure at first if he was breaking down but I came out and kind of felt that after the first, that pretty quickly he was slowing down in the second. That was kind of the turning point in the bout, but it was a tough contest,” he added.

“The whole ONE Championship experience was really cool, and it’s a lot bigger than the LFA shows I have been to, so it was a great experience.”

After his victory, Nakashima felt that he would need a further win under his belt to cement his he a case for a title match.

“I was thinking I would get someone like Santos and they told me to get ready for the next quarter of the next year, so I was just staying ready.”

While he waited to find out who he would face next, Nakashima traveled to Milan, Italy to train with Giorgio Petrosyan, one of the most acclaimed kickboxers of his generation.

The two had met in the lead up to ONE: CONQUEST OF CHAMPIONS, Giorgio’s younger brother Armen was competing on the card, and Giorgio had flown out from Italy to support his sibling.

Nakashima spent a month training under Petrosyan, an experience he found invaluable.

“When I got back from Italy still to this day when I work out by myself I am working on the tiny little details that he told me,” said Nakashima.

“It was all sorts of really tiny details about being longer, being in the correct position after striking or checking and just being able to do basic things like check kicks correctly.

“Now when I go back and watch film of him I can see all the things he was talking about as he really practices what he preaches. I think it has made a big difference in my game.”

Nakashima leaves no stone unturned when it comes to his training and is continually trying to improve as a martial artist both inside and outside the gym.

“Besides the physical work I always make sure I work on my mind to,” he said.

“I try and get in an hour a day of study. I watch 15 minutes of film. I stop and take notes, and it takes a little while to get through that then I read my notes from past days or anything I learned in practice.

“I make notes. I read some books; I read Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do. I read that a couple of times. I have some concepts from that book that have really stuck with me throughout my whole career.”

Nakashima has made no secret of his desire to compete for the ONE Welterweight World Title, he has the talent, he has the passion, and most importantly he looks to have the internal discipline to achieve his aim.

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