A very successful career tends to be measured by wins and losses. Sometimes, victory pushes you to the success that garners superstardom.
For Japan’s Hayato Suzuki (17-1-2), he earned his success by conquering obstacles, along with a highly-decorated record.
However, in 2015, Suzuki suffered a career-defining injury. Many would not call an injury “career-defining,” but it was this very setback that helped push the Brave Gym product forward.
Hard training was what caused a neck hernia in October 2015, and that was followed up by a dislocated shoulder that happened during wrestling practice in June 2016.
Luckily, Suzuki did not require surgery, but instead, had to undergo extensive rehabilitation. During this time, he was able to reflect, and look at training from a different perspective.
“My priority was to recover as soon as possible, but I continued training [in a way] that would not affect my injury,” the 31-year-old recollects.
“I could not use my body during the injury period, but I used the time to observe other martial artists and my own techniques, so I was able to think positively. Sometimes, I was stressed from not being able to move around, though.”
Although the shoulder injury kept him out of action for nearly a year, Suzuki never had the thought of retirement cross his mind. He was concerned, however, that he would not accomplish his immediate goal.
“My goal was to compete overseas,” he admits. “And just when I finally got the opportunity, and when it was the most important time of my career, I got injured, and it was a big one. So I was worried that my chance to debut overseas was going to just slip away.”
Thankfully, he got what he wanted. Earlier this year, Suzuki signed with ONE Championship. The undefeated Japanese combatant entered the organization highly-regarded, as he held the Grachan Flyweight Title, and has an impressive collegiate wrestling background that earned him a fifth-place finish at the All-Japan College Championship.
In August, he made his promotional debut in the strawweight division against former world title challenger Joshua “The Passion” Pacio at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS. Unsurprisingly, he was anxious before stepping inside the Cotai Arena in Macao.
“I was extremely nervous,” Suzuki explains, after finally reaching his immediate goal. “ONE’s atmosphere was just like the biggest events in Japan, and I loved it.”
Suzuki would find his focus once the bell rang. The Japanese competitor took some stiff kicks in the opening seconds of the bout, but immediately brought Pacio to the ground, and worked in a tight rear-naked choke to tap the Filipino out at the 3:17 mark of the very first round.
“Finally, it was my turn to shine,” he says. “Joshua’s kicks were faster than I expected, but I was able to show my strength and win.”
However, in his very next bout, Suzuki fell victim to Alex Silva, who tapped him out in the first round, just like Suzuki did to Pacio. The Brazilian would go on to defeat his fellow countryman Yoshitaka Naito, and claim the ONE Strawweight World Championship.
Although it was undoubtedly a great setback suffering his first career loss in 20 bouts, Suzuki has proven he has what it takes to bounce back from adversity, and fans should see a vastly improved warrior in 2018.