James Nakashima will be staring across the cage at Khabib Nurmagomedov at ONE: ‘Heavy Hitters’. The former UFC lightweight champion might not be fighting but he will be cornering Saygid Izagakhmaev who makes his promotional debut.

Nurmagomedov believes his protegee will finish the fight but Nakashima says he isn’t worried about what other people think even if they are MMA legends,

“He’s probably one of the greatest of all time but I believe in myself. I don’t really care what people think. Honestly, that’s a big, big strength of mine, just not really caring what people think. Whether it’s positive or whether it’s negative, I don’t really care about that stuff.”

Europe bound

He is coming off a defeat to Shinya Aoki but Nakashima says there is no shame in losing to one of the best lightweights in Asian MMA history,

“I just think Shinya is really, really, really good, and I took that fight on a little bit too quickly. I just think, looking back on it, I was a little bit rattled after that title fight loss and trying to chase my loss. I just wasn’t mentally prepared to go in there and fight somebody like Shinya.”

Nakashima is making some changes. The wrestler plans to move to Italy in order to train full time with Giorgio Petrosyan,

“Me and my family, we’re about to move to Italy in the next year or so. I’m going to go out there and train with him (Petrosyan) full-time.”

Similar styles

While Nakashima is quick to point out that Izagakhmaev is not Nurmagomedov he does see some similarities between the two men,

“I mean, you can never compare him to somebody like Khabib but I see his grappling in his fights, and his grappling is solid.  There’s going to be some important moments in this fight and grappling situations, and I’m going to have to be very, very sound there.”

Nakashima has a reputation for being a ‘grinder’, a fighter with a wrestling base who tends to go the distance.

“I know it’s going to be grindy, because of the way that both of us fight. But I would like to have some really nice moments. I’ve been working this whole year to change my game a little bit to work toward the finishes, and I really got to get there at this point in my career.”

Time off

Nakashima has been in with some of the best fighters in ONE Championship’s lightweight and welterweight divisions. His opponent will be appearing on the big stage for the first time in his career and the American feels this experience gives him an advantage,

“I’ve fought the tougher competition throughout my entire career. But, you know, I respect him and his skill set, and he’s fought some tough opponents.”

He is coming off back to back losses but Nakashima says he has learned from them and has spent the last few months making the necessary improvements,

“I’ve really felt like this last year has been a big, big change. And that’s why I haven’t fought, because I needed this time to take a year off and to rebuild myself and rebuild my confidence.”