This time last year Tenshin Nasukawa was preparing to face the most famous fighter on the planet. His date with Floyd Mayweather at Rizin 14 did not go entirely according to plan but it instantly established the 22 year old as an international star.

Given that Mayweather has won every boxing bout in his career and outweighed Tenshin by at least 20lbs the result wasn’t a massive surprise. But it was the first time anyone could remember having seen the Japanese prodigy lose, let alone get obliterated inside a round.

At Rizin 20 he will be back on familiar ground, facing a similar sized opponent in a kickboxing match. But for Tenshin, memories of that night 12 months ago are still raw,

“I know that the New Year’s Eve cards need to be big, and personally I am taking this opportunity to redeem myself from last year’s Mayweather fight,” he said.

Quality opponent

The date and venue will be exactly the same, even if the international audience will diminish in Mayweather’s absence. Tenshin has been matched with Rui Ebata and feels the freshly crowned Knockout super bantamweight champion represents the right sort of caliber opponent,

”I have been fighting every New Year’s Eve and I asked for a quality opponent this time and Ebata stepped up to the occasion. He is very loyal to the fundamentals and he is very well rounded. I hope to break his text book style.“

Tenshin has dabbled with MMA in the past. He is sticking to kickboxing these days but will be an interested spectator when Kai Asakura rematches Manel Kape in the Rizin 20 headliner.

He shared his thoughts on that matchup,

“The first fight was very close and it wouldn’t have surprised me if either of them won. I’m not sure if Kai will push the pace for this one, or Manel will control the pace with his striking. It’s a very intriguing matchup.”

More recognition

Tenshin has fought on several Rise cards this year. But they are on a much smaller scale than Rizin events and he is happy to be back on the big show,

“Rizin knows how to promote their fights and having a broadcast partner is big. I think its production quality is one of the best in Japan.”

The dream matchup for kickboxing fans would be a bout between Tenshin and Takeru Segawa. The latter is contracted to K-1 which makes this a distant prospect at present and the 21 year old refrained from naming any particular opponent when asked who he wanted to face,

“I don’t have a specific fighter in mind at the moment, right now I just want to fight matches that will excite the fan.”

He is young, good looking and has a happy habit of finishing fights with the sort of moves more commonly seen in a video game than an actual ring. It’s difficult to see how Tenshin’s star could rise any higher but he wants to bring the sport of kickboxing to new heights.

Crossing over to boxing  and MMA has certainly helped to raise Tenshin’s profile. But in 2020 he wants to use his platform to help convert more fans to the sport,

“By continuing to win I hope it leads to more recognition towards kickboxing.”