Koyomi “Moushigo” Matsushima is determined to get another crack at the ONE Featherweight World Title, and the #3-ranked featherweight contender can take another huge step on his quest next Friday, 4 December.
“There are strong guys above me such as Martin Nguyen and Thanh Le, and I want to beat those two ultimately,” the 28-year-old Yokohama native says. “I think I can grow and become stronger by fighting against Tonon.”
Tonon, a multiple-time BJJ No-Gi World Champion, has been dominant since making the transition to mixed martial arts. He’s developed a formidable striking arsenal and blended that with his submission grappling expertise to finish every man who’s stood across from him.
With that success, “The Lion Killer” has become the #5-ranked featherweight contender and a serious threat to the top of the order. However, the Japanese star plans to stop his rival’s momentum and derail Tonon’s World Title ambitions.
Matsushima spoke about that goal, and much more, in this exclusive interview.
ONE Championship: What is your impression of Garry Tonon?
Koyomi Matsushima: Without a doubt, he is a grappling specialist, and I think because he is confident of being a grappling specialist, he can have a solid game in striking, too. So, I consider him an all-around athlete more than everyone imagines, and I am preparing myself accordingly.
ONE: He has won a few bouts with his striking.
KM: I was watching his bouts, thinking he may have strong fists. So, I want to land my strikes without taking those punches.
ONE: Which of Tonon’s bouts stood out the most?
KM: I was most impressed by his most recent bout against Yoshiki Nakahara. In that bout, I felt he revealed the weapon he’d been hiding. And I sense that he is planning to compete against me like that.
ONE: What was that hidden weapon?
KM: The heel hook – or leg and foot locks. Previously [in mixed martial arts], he’d won by rear-naked choke and guillotine choke. But watching his grappling bout [against Shinya Aoki], I got the impression that he is good at leg and foot locks. It was so impressive that he kept winning [in mixed martial arts] without using that weapon until he fought against Nakahara.
In terms of the leg and foot locks, he is the best in the world, so I need to be wary. I keep reminding myself, “I will be in trouble once he touches me, or I will lose if I move carelessly.”
ONE: How have you been preparing for a grappler like Tonon?
KM: I had opportunities to train with strong Japanese grapplers like Masakazu Imanari and Kenta Iwamoto, and I think I have done a good job of preparing.
ONE: What kind of advice did they give you?
KM: I am not particularly a grappling specialist, so they taught me many detailed things. They also told me that I should consider the distance when I compete against Tonon.
ONE: What advantages do you have in this fight with Tonon?
KM: In terms of distance in the striking game, I think [my strikes] can land better than his. Tonon knocked down some opponents with punches, but I noticed that he uses punches from a short distance. So, I think if I’m conscious of the distance, I won’t get hit.
ONE: In our last interview, you mentioned that you could not avoid Tonon and Thanh Le if you wanted another ONE Featherweight World Title match. How did you feel when you received the offer for this bout?
KM: I thought Tonon would’ve had at least one more bout with someone else first, but I am so grateful that I have received the offer [to fight him] at this difficult time in the pandemic. I was so happy to receive this offer, and I really want to beat him.
ONE: How do you expect to win this matchup?
KM: In the course of the bout, I think Tonon will switch from orthodox to southpaw to initiate an attack. When that happens, I hope I can attack him to accumulate damage. I believe this is the pattern for my victory. I want to knock him out without missing the opportunity when he gets tired and damaged.
ONE: So, in one sentence, tell us why fans need to watch this bout.
KM: You might think Tonon has exceptional strength in the featherweight division, but I will demolish the illusion. So, please watch out for this bout.
ONE: By the way, you said as a sneaker enthusiast that you normally bring two pairs of shoes when you travel for an event. Did you decide which pairs of sneakers to wear in Singapore?
KM: Yes, I did. I think this time I won’t go out of the venue or hotel that much, so I will just bring one pair. This time, I am wearing the Nike-Supreme collaboration pair. It’s a bit different from what I normally wear. It’s not too sporty – just simple. I picked them with my instinct.
ONE: Will they be your lucky shoes?
KM: It’s my first time wearing them. I don’t usually practice superstitions. The only thing I do before bouts is wear new shoes. So, please watch out for my shoes too (laughs).