A knee injury ruled him out of the ONE lightweight Grand Prix tournament last year but Timofey Nastyukhin is ready to return. After four months of rehabilitation the Russian resumed training at Tiger Muay Thai in January.

Gyms in Phuket might have shut down. But Nastyukhin is still there and says he continues to prepare for his comeback,

“I am happy to be training again with a healthy body. Phuket is like home to me. Being here is such a privilege. In spite of what’s happening in the world, I can still train. When it goes back to normal, I am ready to resume my career,” Nastyukhin said through a translator.

The Russian scored a career defining win at the start of 2019. He knocked out former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez at ONE: ‘A New Era’.

Nastyukhin knew that he was expected to lose to Alvarez and says he wanted to prove a point in that fight,

“A lot of people thought that I would lose in that fight. It never crossed my mind. I was excited. If you don’t expect to win, what’s the point of fighting at all? You shouldn’t be there. In that fight, I was there to win,” he said.

The 30 year old admits that even he had not expected the fight with Alvarez to end in such an emphatic manner,

“I knew I could beat him, but still, I didn’t expect to win in that kind of fashion. As everyone saw, I was overwhelmed with emotions. It was an incredible moment,” he said.

Stunning victory

The stunning victory gained him worldwide attention, but unfortunately for Nastyukhin, he was not able to ride on the momentum. Two weeks before his semi final bout with Honorio Banario, who replaced the injured Lowen Tynanes, the Russian tore his ACL,

He would have been a strong favourite against Banario and it was a devastating setback,

“It was a heartbreaking experience. I invested time and effort for that fight, but I had to pull out. It’s not an easy decision to make,” he recalled.

Six months later he was back in the gym and he had hoped to make his comeback in the first quarter of 2020,

“Honestly I feel 100%. I am very healthy (and) I was expecting to fight in March or April before the pandemic happened but it’s fine, I am happy training,” Nastyukhin said.

Shoot for gold

The promotion’s lightweight rankings were released for the first time this week and Nastyukhin occupies the #4 spot. He has set his sights on a title shot and wants to earn it by the end of the year,

“I am willing to fight anyone. As long as it can bring me to the title, I don’t mind. My goal is to shoot for the gold. I hope I can get it this year,” he said.

There are a lot of expectations surrounding Nastyukhin following his first round stoppage win over Alvarez. Since bursting onto the scene by knocking out Eduard Folayang in 2014 he has consistently faced the top featherweights and lightweights on the roster.

But people were forced to reassess the Russian’s ability when he finished Alvarez, adding his name to an exclusive list of fighters that currently consists of Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, Donald Cerrone, Michael Chandler, Shinya Aoki and Nick Thompson.

Nastyukhin now has a real reputation and he is desperate to get out there and protect it,

“I want to be back in there. I want to fight again. I know this will be my year. That’s why I am working really hard,” he said.