Shuya Kamikubo will go in search of his third straight ONE Championship win in Bangkok tomorrow night. He has not lost a fight since 2015 but is going up against former title challenger Dae Hwan Kim, the biggest name he has faced in his career to date.
The fight at ONE: ‘Clash of Legends’ pits two of the promotion’s top bantamweights together. Kamikubo has a lot of respect for the Korean and has been particularly impressed by his mentality,
“Kim has a tough mind,” he said.
Quite what constitutes a ‘tough mind’ only the Japanese fighter can know. But Kamikubo appears to be engaging in some mind games head of their clash at Impact Arena in Bangkok,
“If I focus on grappling I’m certain that I can keep him on the ground. But I want to let him think; ‘this guy does a lot of striking too’. I know that I will have to go up against him with my total ability.”
Kamikubo’s wrestling was his key to victory last time out. He decisioned tenacious Malaysian Muhammad Aiman and the 25 year old thinks his ability to switch between styles made the difference in this bout.
“I had to grapple, after seeing how my opponent reacted in the third round I was able to use my striking and I was able to throw my punches to push him back.”
However he is blunt about the advantages that Kim has heading into tomorrow’s ONE: ‘Clash of Legends’ matchup,
“If I did striking-only sparring with him I’d probably lose. If I did grappling-only sparring I’d lose, too.”
Kamikubo’s modestly is not necessarily a reflection of his talent. The 9-1-1 record speaks for itself and he has made the transition from fighting for Japanese promotions like Deep and Pancrase to competing on the ONE Championship stage look seamless,
However he is adamant that this success has been more a product of hard work than any physical gifts,
“I am not blessed with natural talent. I am simply trying to make do with what few assets I have,” he said.
Ben Askren is an example of a fighter who doesn’t have the most entertaining style inside the cage but more than makes up for that with his personality outside it. But Kamikubo isn’t trying to emulate the trash talking American, who makes his UFC debut next month.
Instead the Japanese bantamweight is content to compete to the fullest of his abilities and hopes fans will simply appreciate the hard work he is putting in,
“At the end of the day I cannot fight with any flash or flair but I will fight my heart out during every fight and hope to inspire those who see me fight in the process.”