Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito (13-1) is the most dominant strawweight in ONE Championship.
The 34-year-old is the reigning ONE Strawweight World Champion, a humble warrior, and a competitor with a quirky personality. Also, he is an outstanding role model, and an emerging icon of Japanese martial arts.
As he prepares to defend his title in a rematch with Joshua “The Passion” Pacio at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 22 September, here are four reasons why “Nobita” is such an inspiring World Champion.
#1 He Is A Fantastic Grappler
The fact that Naito has claimed six of his 13 career wins by submission is clear evidence of his ability on the mat, but to execute those bout-ending techniques, he also needs to take his opponent to the mat, and that is where he excels.
Naito’s wrestling is arguably the strongest aspect of his martial arts skill set. His ability to take his adversaries to the ground and control them on the canvas has been a cornerstone of his success.
His first two victories under the ONE banner came via rear-naked choke, but perhaps the best illustration of his grappling abilities came in his most recent bout, when he reclaimed the ONE Strawweight World Title from BJJ World Champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva.
By defeating the Brazilian, “Nobita” proved his world-class ground skills and his ability to compete with any grappler inside the ONE cage.
#2 He Is Masterfully Well-Rounded
Naito’s ability to seamlessly transition between striking, wrestling, and submissions has helped him dominate during his undefeated run with Japanese promotion Shooto, and he has since taken his game to new levels in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
Though “Nobita’s” biggest strength is his grappling acumen, but without the ability to stand and trade with his opponents, he would be a one-dimensional combatant. That would make it easy for opponents to read him, and counter on the feet.
Naito’s elusive striking keeps his adversaries guessing, as he can score effectively – particularly with punches – then transition smoothly to his bread and butter – his wrestling – to take the bout to the canvas.
#3 He Learns From His Mistakes
Many athletes say they learn more from their defeats than victories, and Naito is no different.
When he lost the ONE Strawweight World Title to Silva at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD last December, he made a crucial error.
Facing a BJJ World Champion, the Chiba, Japan resident admitted that he underestimated Silva’s stand-up prowess, and it cost him his belt.
“That was my first time meeting an athlete who is good at everything,” he said. “After the loss, I felt I was not good enough at anything.”
Naito went back to the drawing board, corrected his mistakes from the first bout, and came back an improved version of himself for the rematch at ONE: GRIT & GLORY this past May.
The new and improved “Nobita” put right the wrongs of their initial clash, as he earned a split decision victory against “Little Rock” to reclaim the gold.
#4 His Inspiring Journey To The Top
Although the Japanese star has only experienced the bitter taste of defeat once in his career, he turned the negative into a positive, and came back better than ever.
Naito is no stranger to adversity, however.
As a youngster, he was a self-professed comic book geek, and was not popular – or successful – at school. Desperate to escape, he dropped out in search of a new direction for his life.
“Nobita” eventually found martial arts and, at the age of 22, began his journey.
The Japanese competitor may have had a late start to the game, but he discovered his true calling. He transformed from the unpopular kid at school to one of the best martial artists on the planet, as well as a role model to millions.
Jakarta | 22 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast