The Japanese superstar stood toe-to-toe with the ONE Middleweight World Champion and pushed him to his breaking point in a remarkable contest that was later hailed as 2018’s Bout Of The Year.
Now Hasegawa has a chance to avenge his loss when he welcomes his old rival to his backyard of Tokyo for a rematch at the historic ONE: A NEW ERA on 31 March.
Aung La Nu Sang will be sure of one thing – he will face another stiff test from one of the toughest competitors in mixed martial arts.
These are just five ways Hasegawa has an incredible warrior spirit.
#1 Size Does Not Matter
Hasegawa has never turned his back on a challenge – even when he gave up a significant size and strength advantage to his opposition.
The 31-year old has taken whatever opponent has been thrown his way while jumping into multiple weight classes over the years, from welterweight, all the way up to heavyweight.
He has not just made up the numbers when he has taken on the giants, either, as he showed when he became DEEP Openweight Champion.
No challenge has been too big for Hasegawa to take on, so facing Aung La N Sang at his natural weight will not faze him.
#2 He Conquered A Career-Threatening Injury
There is no opponent who Hasegawa has ever feared, but perhaps the scariest moment he has ever faced is when his career was nearly taken away from him.
The Japanese superstar suffered a herniated cervical disc in his spine during a match a couple of years ago that left him unable to move his hands.
At that moment, Hasegawa felt like he could not go on because something he cherished so much was being taken away from him.
However, through hard work and an undying desire to get back to what he loved, Hasegawa was able to recover and return better than ever before. That kind of courage is harder to come by than a willingness to stand and trade in the cage.
#3 He Never Willingly Takes A Backward Step
There may not be a more defining characteristic for Hasegawa than his ability to constantly move forward on an opponent – even if that means walking through fire.
He proved that time and time again in his first battle against Aung La N Sang. There were moments when nearly every other mixed martial artist on the planet would have been stunned or stopped after eating some of the shots that he did on the feet.
Instead of falling, Hasegawa just kept marching forward and dishing out his own brand of offense in return as he pushed the two-division ONE World Champion further than any other challenger.
“I get stronger after I get hurt, and I can still move forward aggressively after I get tired,” Hasegawa says.
Hasegawa took everything Aung La N Sang could throw at him the last time, and now he is back asking for more.
#4 Mind Over Matter
As strong as Hasegawa is physically, he prides himself on mental toughness being his best weapon of all.
From the near career-ending injury he suffered to the challenge of facing a champion like Aung La N Sang on his home turf, none of it broke Hasegawa’s will to succeed and become a World Champion.
Hasegawa’s ability to endure the physical toll on his body comes in large part because he is so mentally prepared for whatever is thrown at him inside or outside the cage. He felt that was a huge weapon for him in the first bout against the ONE Middleweight World Champion.
“That is how I am different from his former opponents. My mind is strong,” he said.
#5 He Will Walk Into The Lion’s Den
In addition to Hasegawa’s willingness to face opponents who have been much larger than him, he has also shown he is not afraid to accept challenges that put him at a disadvantage in other ways.
When he was offered the chance to face Aung La N Sang in his ONE debut last year, Hasegawa did not blink when he found out that the bout would take place in front of a partisan Yangon crowd. Every voice in the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium was against him, but he claims he thrives on that pressure.
“I really like the idea of facing a national hero in his home country,” Hasegawa said.
The roles will be reversed on 31 March as Hasegawa competes at home. If he thrives on the pressure of a hostile crowd, there is no telling how much the passionate Japanese support at the Ryogoku Kokugikan will drive him on.