James Nakashima owns one of the most impressive undefeated records in mixed martial arts, and he expects to ride that all the way to the ONE Welterweight World Title.
His place among the world’s best athletes has been a long time coming for the 30-year-old, who cut his teeth grinding away on the wrestling mats in the United States Of America.
Those experiences molded him into the relentless, determined competitor he is today, and it has potentially taken him to within one win of a chance to challenge Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam.
Before he puts his perfect record on the line in Manila, Philippines against Luis “Sapo” Santos at ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR next Friday, 12 April, find out how this Arizonan battled his way to the global stage for martial arts.
Nakashima was born and raised in a small village called Dwight in Illinois, which was home to about 4000 people.
Raised by a mother who worked as a corrections officer at a maximum security women’s prison and a father who owned a local restaurant, Nakashima had a great childhood surrounded by a community of people who all looked after each other.
As a kid, Nakashima was a huge professional wrestling fan, so when his father wanted to get him involved in the amateur sport at the age of 7, he was all for it. He was disappointed there were no elbow drops involved when he pulled on his singlet, but he grew to love the discipline.
“My dad was a wrestler, and he put me in wrestling for self-defense. I remember I thought it was going to be like WWE, but it wasn’t,” Nakashima laughs.
“I hated it, but he made me keep going to it. I got better at it, and then I got pretty good at it.
“One thing led to another – I just wrestled every single year, and I just got better and better.”
A Natural Transition
Nakashima’s wrestling career continued through high school all the way to college where he eventually found himself at the University of Nebraska – the same team that produced Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs.
When he first arrived, Nakashima decided to take a slightly different approach than most college athletes. He did not just want to master wrestling – he wanted to be the best all-around grappler.
That required him to diversify his training so he could add some new skills to his arsenal.
“I started training jiu-jitsu at a traditional dojo when I got out to Nebraska. I wanted to do that because I thought it would give me something in the wrestling game that a lot of other wrestlers didn’t have,” he explains.
“I met some friends, and they were pro mixed martial arts fighters training out of that gym, and they would travel to Omaha on the weekends to train.”
Inspired by his teammates, Nakashima went one step further to add striking to his repertoire and begin to mix his martial arts. It was not long before he was obsessed with the sport.
One is the Loneliest Number
The toughest part of Nakashima’s journey was his time on the Nebraska wrestling team.
Moving to a city that was more than 30 times bigger than his hometown was a culture shock, and then he focused too much on his passion and education.
He did well in his academic and athletic pursuits, but it came at a cost.
“It was a big adjustment for me. It was good for me, and I’m glad I persevered through it, but at the time, it was very difficult for me,” he admits.
“I was so focused on wrestling, I told myself when I moved there I was going to get a dog. I wasn’t going to date any girls. I was just going to focus on my school and my wrestling, and it turned into loneliness and homesickness.”
Despite his difficulties, Nakashima’s sacrifices paid off because it led him to mixed martial arts. Now, he is also a family man, raising a baby daughter with his partner, Mindy.
The Next Step
James Nakashima stays undefeated as he grinds out a unanimous decision win over Raimond Magomedaliev!Watch the full event LIVE & FREE on the ONE Super App ???? http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast
Posted by ONE Championship on Friday, November 23, 2018
In little more than three years as a professional mixed martial artist, Nakashima established himself as one of the top rising stars in the world.
He won his first nine bouts, and capped his run by capturing and defending the Legacy Fighting Alliance Welterweight Title – one of the most respected developmental organizations in America.
Once he had done that, the MMA Lab representative knew it was time to step up to the global stage.
“Legacy [Fighting Alliance] did everything they could do for me. I fought all the top prospects, and then got the belt and defended the belt, so it was just time to move on. I’m excited for the next chapter,” he says.
That next chapter began with an outstanding performance in his ONE debut. In a battle of undefeated warriors, he dominated Raimond Magomedaliev for 15 minutes to emerge with a unanimous decision, and move on to face one of the most experienced men in the organization.
Now, Nakashima is targeting a win over Santos to push him toward his division’s ultimate prize.
“There is no other goal,” he says with confidence. “I want to be a World Champion in ONE.”