James Nakashima has quickly emerged as a top contender in ONE Championship’s welterweight division.
On Friday, 2 August, the undefeated American is scheduled to face Japanese legend Yushin “Thunder” Okami at ONE: DAWN OF HEROES in Manila, Philippines, and one more victory could lead him to a World Title opportunity.
This is undoubtedly the biggest match in the 30-year-old’s mixed martial arts career, but a lifetime of hard work, dedication, and wisdom from positive influences has prepared him for this moment.
It's a classic grappler vs. striker showdown when American warrior James Nakashima meets Brazilian bruiser Luis Santos on Friday! Predictions? Manila | 12 April | 6:00PM | Watch on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onehonor19
Posted by ONE Championship on Monday, April 8, 2019
Nakashima acknowledges that he is not the best wrestler, the slickest grappler, or even the most prolific knockout artist in the sport.
However, the American feels his discipline and impeccable work ethic have given him an edge.
“That’s really the only thing that separates me from a lot of these fighters and even my teammates,” the LFA Welterweight Champion says.
“If you watch one of our practices, it’s going to be hard for somebody to see the difference between me and some of my teammates. But I’m going into that practice with a game plan of things that I know I have to work on.
“After practice, I’m going home and I’m eating the right things. I’m sleeping and I’m doing the right mental work. I’m going to do it every day, and keep doing it.”
That mentality has been with Nakashima ever since his childhood, but it was reinforced in him during his college years.
While competing on the University Of Nebraska’s wrestling team, he had the opportunity to train with another dedicated and disciplined athlete every day.
That person was Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs, who is widely considered one of the most accomplished wrestlers in the history of the sport.
“[During] my time around Jordan Burroughs for three years, I got to see how he approached every single day. That taught me a lot,” Nakashima says.
“Jordan never did anything special in terms of out-working anybody, but he showed up every single day and he handled his job. He did everything professionally.
“Obviously, he was the best wrestler in the room, but in the weight room, he wasn’t the best weightlifter. On the track, he wasn’t the best runner. It’s not like he was giving 150 percent more effort than anyone else in the wrestling room, but just the way he approached his day-to-day [schedule taught me a lot]. He is so professional, and he did it every single day.”
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Nakashima sought out the same kind of atmosphere when he made the transition to mixed martial arts.
Ultimately, that led him to The MMA Lab, a top facility in Phoenix, Arizona where a plethora of America’s most recognizable mixed martial artists call home.
At the gym, the welterweight contender saw the same drive he previously witnessed in Burroughs mirrored by the people who coach him and train alongside him.
“That’s what I’ve come up under here at The Lab,” he begins.
“John Crouch lives at The Lab and when he is not at The Lab, he is with a fighter in whatever country or state.
“I don’t know how old Benson [Henderson] is now, maybe 35 or something, but Benson works harder than anyone here in the six years that I’ve been here. That’s something Benson always preaches.”
Also, Nakashima feels the same type of vibe when he visits Giorgio “The Doctor” Petrosyan in Milan, Italy.
Petrosyan, who recently advanced to the ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix semifinals, is considered one of the best kickboxers of all time.
Not only has the American refined his stand-up game under the careful eye of the Italian ace, but he has also taken a cue from the way his friend trains and prepares for battle.
“When I’m out in Italy [training] with Petrosyan — and we are pretty close now — he helps me out a lot, and he is the same way, too,” the American says. “He is very, very meticulous about everything that he does, but it’s all very professional.”
All of those influences have played a role in shaping Nakashima’s attitude, and now, his hard work and dedication are truly paying dividends.
He is undefeated in his professional mixed martial arts career, and if he were to beat Okami in the Mall Of Asia Arena, it could lead to a shot at the ONE Welterweight World Title.
Should that happen, perhaps it is only a matter of time before he mirrors Burroughs and Petrosyan even more by becoming a World Champion.