Marat “Cobra” Gafurov (16-1) is ready to take the next step on his road to reclaim the ONE Featherweight World Championship.
In April, after an eight-month break from competition, the Dagestani grappler made his return at ONE: HEROES OF HONOR in Manila, Philippines.
Just 10 days before the event, however, Gafurov had to spend time at a local hospital soon after arriving in Thailand to finish his training camp. It was far from the ideal way to prepare for his comeback bout.
“I crashed my motorbike on the first day back in Thailand, and injured my leg,” the 33-year-old admits.
Gafurov refused to withdraw from the contest, instead opting to compete against Emilio “The Honey Badger” Urrutia with his leg barely recovered.
Just seconds into the match, “Cobra” was struck by a leg kick, which did significant damage. Undeterred, he caught Urrutia’s next kick, took him down, and moments later, used his grappling mastery to put the American to sleep with an arm-triangle choke.
“It was excruciatingly painful,” Gafurov states. “But I got myself together, took Urrutia to the ground, and finished the fight.”
Marat "Cobra" Gafurov's on the hunt for ONE gold!Download the ONE Super App now http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp
Posted by ONE Championship on Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Now, he will attempt to get his second consecutive finish at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES.
That will not be easy, however. While Matsushima is making his promotional debut, he is far from a mixed martial arts novice.
The 25-year-old from Yokohama, Japan, is a Shooto Welterweight Tournament Champion, and a veteran of the Pancrase and PXC organizations.
He is also a Kyokushin karate black belt who possesses knockout power, as well as a deep wrestling background.
Gafurov, a proven Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt maestro, has already scouted out his opponent, and has an idea of what to look out for.
“I know he is a southpaw, and he is probably a good striker because five out of his nine wins came by way of TKO. I noticed his cauliflower ears, so he probably can wrestle, too,” the Dagestani laughs.
“My strong side is grappling, but I will have to watch out for Koyomi’s punches – I know how unlucky a lucky punch can be.”
Should Gafurov defeat Matsushima, especially via stoppage, it would bring him even closer to the ONE Featherweight World Title rematch with Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen he so desperately desires.
However, “Cobra” acknowledges he may not get the opportunity to face the two-division ONE World Champion as yet.
If that is the case, then there is another contender he would like to face — “The Underdog” Li Kai Wen, who recently broke the record for the fastest knockout and finish in ONE Championship’s featherweight division with a 10-second KO.
Even if the Dagestani needs to take a third or fourth step on his journey back to the gold, he is confident he will do his part to secure a bout with “The Situ-Asian.”
“I will get to him, if he can stay on top,” Gafurov promises.