James Nakashima arrived in ONE Championship with an unblemished 9-0 record and has since sealed three straight wins for the promotion.

The American’s record currently stands at 12-0 and he will get his long-awaited shot at the welterweight title. He challenges champion Kiamrian Abbasov at ONE: ‘Inside the Matrix’ Part II which is being broadcast this Friday.

His last fight was a landmark win against Asian MMA  legend Yushin Okami at ONE: ‘Dawn of Heroes’. That bout was well over a year ago and Nakashima hasn’t fought since due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Elite competition

Many of his bouts have been the distance but Nakashima says this is a reflection on the standard of opposition he has consistently faced,

“I have never fought a can. I was going across the United States fighting top prospect after top prospect, and it forced me to fight a little conservative. I kind of feel like I never fought to my full potential.”

However he feels this experience has served him well and Nakashima was very happy with his performance against UFC veteran Okami,

“That Okami fight was different. I could tell when I watched the film. I looked comfortable.”

Painful experience

While he looked comfortable the American says he was actually in pain for much of the fight,

“I almost finished him in the second round with the left hand. I sprained my ACL and MCL in the second round, and I could barely keep pressure on my lead knee going into that third, but I still feel like I handled myself well in that third round.”

You can’t criticize Nakashima for his results because it is a hard fact that he has never lost a fight. But the 32 year old says the uptick in his recent performances has filled him with confidence,

“I think that the Okami fight really made me grow and believe in myself because I just have a lot of weapons.”

Team effort

Abbasov won the belt by beating Zebaztian Kadestam at ONE: ‘Dawn of Valor’ last year. Nakashima says preparations for the fight have been a team effort,

“It’s just been a giant collaboration. That belt will be around me, but it’s so much more. It’s been a giant project with my parents, my family, my gym, and my coaches.”

“Nothing in this world with greatness is done alone. It’s a lot bigger than me. Obviously, hard work has come along, but the support system for me is what has gotten me to this title fight. Without the support, I would be nothing.”

No pressure

Nakashima has had to quarantine in his hotel room ahead of the fight. But, speaking from Singapore, the American made it clear that he is anything but nervous,

“I don’t, honestly, feel like this stuff is pressure. I’ve been quarantined in this hotel room ever since I got to Singapore but I’m having fun (and) I’m super grateful for this opportunity,” he says.

He remains extremely philosophical about the pressure that comes with being a title contender,

“Real pressure is growing up with parents that aren’t feeding you and you’re starving. Real pressure is you lose your job and you can’t afford to eat or feed your family.”

Supreme confidence

Nakashima doesn’t seem to have too much to say about his opponent. The American feels like the hard work is done and he sounds supremely confident,

“Spending time with my daughter every day and trying to help her become a whole person, being good to my girlfriend, the day-to-day grind. That’s the pressure. All the pressure is off me now (and) that belt will be around me.”