James Nakashima for the first time in his career faces legitimate questions regarding his place in the pecking order.
“Nako” will have his work cut out for him when he confronts Saygid Izagakhmaev in a pivotal lightweight showcase at One Championship “Heavy Hitters” this Friday at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. Nakashima kicks off his 2022 campaign in One Championship on a two-fight losing streak. He last competed on Jan. 22, when he submitted to a rear-naked choke from Japanese icon Shinya Aoki in the first round of their One Championship “Unbreakable” co-headliner.
As Nakashima makes final preparations for his shodown with Izagakhmaev, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. A familiar light illuminated his path.
Nakashima was a state finalist at Dwight High School in Dwight, Illinois, and went on to wrestle collegiately at nearby Lincoln College, a two-year school where he won a junior college national championship in 2009. He eventually took his talents to the University of Nebraska, where he compiled a 27-15 record and emerged as an NCAA qualifier for the Cornhuskers as a senior in 2012.
2. He was a late bloomer.
“Nako” did not make his professional mixed martial arts debut until the age of 27. He laid claim to a unanimous decision over Victor McCullough at a Resurrection Fighting Alliance event on Jan. 9, 2015 in Colorado Springs. Eleven more victories followed before Nakashima suffered his first defeat.
3. World-class instruction lies at the heart of his success.
Nakashima operates out of the MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona, where he sharpens his skills under famed coach John Crouch and trains alongside former Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder Benson Henderson, Sean O’Malley, Jared Cannonier and a host of other accomplished fighters.
4. He possesses a champion’s drive.
The 33-year-old Illinois native remains one of only six fighters to capture the Legacy Fighting Alliance welterweight crown. Derrick Krantz, Jason Jackson, Jaleel Willis, Maycon Mendonca and Carlos Leal are the others. Nakashima struck gold at 170 pounds when he eked out a split decision over Krantz in the LFA 23 main event on Sept. 22, 2017. He made one successful title defense—he outpointed Kyle Stewart across five rounds 10 months later—before vacating the throne to sign with One Championship.
5. Judges have been allies.
Nakashima has secured 11 of his 12 career victories by decision. The lone exception? A technical knockout of Luis Santos that resulted when the Brazilian journeyman suffered a knee injury in the second round of their One Championship “Roots of Honor” pairing in April 2019.
« Previous By The Numbers: Jingnan Xiong vs. Ayaka Miura Next One Championship ‘Heavy Hitters’ Preview & Predictions »