Koyomi Matsushima is a welterweight tournament winner in Shooto, a Pancrase veteran and the current #2 ranked featherweight in ONE Championship.
The kyokushin karate black belt made a fast start to life with the promotion. He knocked out former featherweight champion Marat Gafurov at ONE: ‘Conquest of Heroes’ and overcame talented Korean Won Il Kwon with a decision win at ONE: ‘Legendary Quest’.
Less than two months later, he found himself with an opportunity to win the vacant lightweight belt, but ultimately came up short against Martin Nguyen, who won with some ground and pound in the second round at ONE: ‘Dawn of Heroes’.
It was a pivotal fight in Matsushima’s career and one he will not soon forget,
“I haven’t really had a moment I can say I’m proud of in MMA but something that has left an impact on me is the moment I lost the title bout. It was a bout where I discovered many aspects I can improve on.”
The 28 year old acknowledges there were things he could have done differently but feels he was not at the level required to beat Nguyen,
“Of course,” he continued.
“I could’ve refined my game plan or trained a bit more, but I realized the need to improve my overall level in order to get a rematch.”
The Japanese star is due to take on #5 ranked Garry Tonon at ONE: ‘Big Bang’ next month in what promises to be a fascinating match and will probably turn out to be a title eliminator. Matsushima is well aware of the BJJ black belt’s credentials from the grappling world,
“I think he is a special fighter. He doesn’t have much experience in MMA but he has the technique to make up for that.”
Matsushima hopes to use his striking and maintain his distance,
“I think my striking is better than his and I am better at fighting from distance. So I’d like to use that advantage effectually.”
However he preferred to play down talk of a title shot being on the line for the winner,
“Even if I’m second in rankings, I feel I’m furthest away from a title fight. I’m not satisfied enough to fight for the title yet (but) I want to fight in an impactful match that will get me closer to a title fight.”
Matsushima has competed in Manila and Jakarta and will be showcasing his skills in Singapore for the first time. ONE has previously held star-studded cards in Tokyo and he would love to compete in his homeland for the first time since signing for the promotion,
“I haven’t been able to compete at the Tokyo event yet so can’t really say how it would be like but I would hope it gets as much attention as Manila or Singapore,” he said.
Matsushima bounced back from the defeat to Nguyen in some style. returned with a vengeance. He finished Korea’s Kim Jae Woong in the third round at ONE: ‘Warrior’s Code’.
This will be his fifth fight for ONE Championship and Matsushima feels that he has evolved as a fighter throughout this stint,
“I’ve been able to compete against incredibly tough fighters. I think throughout the four fights, I have been able to gain a lot from them both physically and mentally.’
Yin and yang
Seven of Matsushima’s 12 wins have come by way of stoppage due to strikes. You cannot question his killer instincts but the 28 year old says this aggressive style is at odds with his actual personality.
Matsushima is a different person outside of the ring and used a very Japanese expression to explain the difference,
“My day to day life and myself as a fighter can be described as a yin and yang.”
At the Singapore Indoor Stadium he will be looking to let his fists do the talking. Matsushima is going up against one of the best grapplers in the sport and with a second title shot on the line the stakes could not be much higher.