Tenshin Nasukawa is not lacking in self-belief. A multiple-time world champion when he was still just a teenager, his confidence is warranted.
Now 22, the Japanese striker is a bona fide superstar. This weekend he returns at Rizin 24 taking on former K-1 star Koji at the Saitama Super Arena on Sunday.
Koji challenged unsuccessfully for the K-1 super featherweight title in 2018 and Tenshin appears underwhelmed by his opponent’s credentials,
“It’s just another fight for me. Nothing has really changed. I honestly don’t think he possesses any kind of threat at all. He is no challenge. I will enforce my will against him and it will be a one-sided beatdown and end early.”
The build-up to this fight provided some fun moments. Japan is a country that has a deep love of pro wrestling, and there was something very WWE about the way Koji called Tenshin out at Rizin 22.
He walked down the ramp wearing a cut-out of a Floyd Mayweather mask before handing it over to Tenshin along with a proposal to fight. The young superstar duly accepted.
Koji’s antics continued at the pre-fight press conference. The 31-year-old taunted Tenshin by presenting him with a walkie talkie that he said was connected to the kickboxing star’s dad along with a baby bottle, another reference to the exhibition match against Mayweather where he cried after losing.
Tenshin said the pre fight antics had no effect on him whatsoever,
“I don’t really care what he does. But people have their own way of doing things so I’m not going to deny how he does things.”
Rizin 24 will be the promotion’s third event since returning from a six-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With their upcoming show comprising a stacked card and set to air on local television, Tenshin is hoping to make a big splash,
“I think the exposure that terrestrial television brings is huge. And their production is fantastic. I really want to leave a big impact like always on this platform.”
Tenshin is the Rizin kickboxing featherweight champion and a double champion in Rise. Those are just a few of his extensive list of accolades, but the kyokushin karate blackbelt believes he’s only begun to scratch the surface of his potential,
“I have been through a lot, but I don’t think I have accomplished anything yet. So the best is yet to come.”
While he still has an undefeated professional record in both kickboxing and MMA, there are those who would like to see Tenshin face stiffer competition on the international stage. He’s certainly open to all challenges, and wants to ensure that his legacy is in a league of its own,
“I want to fight internationally and fight against the world. I really want to challenge things that nobody has ever done so I would like to become the one and only type fighter.”
One of his toughest tests to date came against ONE flyweight Muay Thai champion, Rodtang Jitmuangnon. The pair met at Rise in 2018 and after the judges had scored the fight a draw after five rounds, a sixth round was needed in which Tenshin came out on top.
With both viewed as two of the very best young talents in the game, it’s a rematch that would be widely welcomed,
“I’m not quite sure how each organizations work because there are so much politics, but if I were to pick somebody, I would like to fight Rodtang again. I do want to fight him again, and I know I have gotten much better than we last fought. So if we did have a rematch, I am confident that I could dominate him,” Tenshin said.
Tenshin has long been linked with a move to ONE Championship but nothing has yet come to fruition. If a deal was to be made, a rematch with Rodtang would surely be top of the agenda.
In the meantime, Koji is a decorated champion who will provide an intriguing test. And regardless of who’s standing across from him, part of the reason for Tenshin’s allure is that he’s an exceptionally entertaining fighter to watch.