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How Hiroyuki Tetsuka Stayed True To Himself To Chase His Dream

Hiroyuki “Japanese Beast” Tetsuka has thrilled mixed martial arts fans with his power since 2015, and he’ll get another chance to showcase that talent against a tough-as-nails veteran from Malaysia.

The 31-year-old will take on former ONE Welterweight World Title challenger Agilan “Alligator” Thani in a catchweight mixed martial arts bout at ONE: NEXTGEN II next Friday, 12 November.

Tetsuka’s rise through the combat sports world is an inspirational story of passion. Ahead of his next assignment, we look back at his journey from a small-town countryside life to competing on the world’s largest stage.

Family Ethics

Tetsuka grew up in Shioyamachi, a small town in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo.

He was raised with his older sister by parents who instilled very strong principles in their children.

“Three things I was often told still stand out – do not cause others trouble, get along well with your friends, and do not do anything bad,” Tetsuka says.

As a child, he was always drawn to martial arts. His father and grandfather, both combat sports fans, often watched the illustrious New Year’s Eve martial arts shows on television, and the youngster was attracted to the fighting spirit exhibited by the athletes.

The only place to train in his neighborhood was a kendo dojo, so Tetsuka joined at 8 years old and continued until he was 15. This gave him the foundations of patience, diligence, and technique that would help him become an elite competitor in the years to come.

He learned even more when he found Oda Kickboxing Gym. It was an hour away from his home, but that did not deter the committed athlete, and he started making the long round-trip to train there immediately.

Out Of His Comfort Zone

After high school, “Japanese Beast” moved to Tokyo and enrolled at Japan Sports Science University in the Setagaya area. There, he joined Team Dragon kickboxing gym to continue training while he studied to become a physical education teacher.

However, he wanted to learn to grapple and complete his all-around mixed martial arts skill set. At that time, the sport was exploding in North America, so he yearned to train abroad and elevate his ability.

Tetsuka did not have the money to go study or train in the United States, but an internet search revealed a program in Portland, Oregon, where he could receive agricultural training on a farm. Once he graduated from university, he flew across the Pacific and landed at Rise Above MMA.

His new lifestyle was tough at first, and it came with the added challenge of a language barrier.

“I couldn’t really speak much [English] at first until I made friends. The culture was different too. I studied by myself, talked with friends, and got used to it slowly,” Tetsuka says.

“When you train and spar with people, you naturally get along. It’s one of the great things about martial arts. I discovered I loved grappling. I could use my muscles and strength more than in kickboxing.”

Two years and four amateur bouts later, he returned to Japan and joined Yamada Dojo-TGFC, where he continued to develop his ground game with coach Koichi Ota, who is still in his corner to this day.

Staying True To Himself

When Tetsuka returned home, he used his physical education teaching license to get a job as a teacher in his hometown’s junior high school, but he soon decided he wouldn’t be happy until he dedicated his life to following his passion.

“I was working there giving my best to students, but I realized something wasn’t right,” he says.

“As a teacher, you have to inspire kids to chase their dreams, but I knew that I wanted to be a professional mixed martial artist, and I wasn’t making my dream come true. How could I tell them to do what I wasn’t doing?

“That was the moment I made up my mind to become a professional athlete.”

He completed a one-year contract and then flew back to Portland for four months. He trained at Rose City Fight Club with coach Andy Minsker, who honed the boxing skills that Tetsuka has used to great effect.

Knockouts became his calling card, with his aggressive style delivering six KO wins inside the distance.

World Championship Dreams

In June 2019, Tetsuka faced a grueling challenge to become a Pancrase Welterweight Champion when he faced heavy-handed, iron-chinned veteran Kenta Takagi.

When they’d met three years before, “Japanese Beast” was stopped early in the second round, but he went back to the drawing board and won four more bouts to earn a shot at the vacant belt against his old rival.

This time, he put on the performance of his life to win by submission in round one and become the new Welterweight King of Pancrase.

“Before it, I was anxious. The first time, he broke my nose and I was cut badly,” the Tochigi native admits.

“I knew all too well how scary his striking was. The night before the weigh-ins, I was so scared that I couldn’t sleep.

“After the match, I felt such a release. It felt great to show how much I’d grown as an athlete in the three years between our two matches.”

Stepping Up To The Global Stage

That massive victory gave Tetsuka the chance to step up a level, and he made his debut in the world’s largest martial arts organization at ONE: CENTURY PART II in October 2019.

That evening in Tokyo, he blew past Shooto World Champion Hernani Perpetuo, scoring a unanimous decision win to emphatically announce his arrival in ONE Championship. However, he would drop a loss to Murad Ramazanov at ONE: INSIDE THE MATRIX III a year later.

Now, he’s looking to regain his old form against a former ONE World Title challenger in Thani. And if Tetsuka can knock off the Malaysian, he’ll be back on his path to building the reputation he’s always dreamed of.  

”I want to be an athlete who makes people shiver in excitement when I perform,” he says.

Read more: Phogat Reflects On Win Over Olsim, Thinks Stamp Is ‘Petrified’

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