James Nakashima vs Yushin Okami is one of the featured fights on ONE Championship: Dawn of Heroes. It’s a compelling bout between the unbeaten Nakashima and one of the most tenured, prolific Asian fighters ever in Okami. The card goes down on Friday, August 2nd at 7 AM ET. Dawn of Heroes emanates from Mall of Asia Arena, but it was a long road to that arena for Nakashima.
College Wrestling Days
Nakashima has been wrestling since he was 7 years old. He thought his father was signing him up to be a pro wrestler and was a bit surprised at his first practice. Nakashima remains a pro wrestling fan and still works out with New Japan Pro Wrestling star/ high school buddy Juice Robinson. But, Nakashima quickly figured out a world without predetermined outcomes was more for him.
James Nakashima began his MMA journey by getting some elite amateur wrestling experience. The University of Nebraska is where Nakashima cut his teeth at that elite level, and he learned a tremendous amount. After all, this was the same team that produced Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs.
To gain more of an edge over his amateur wrestling contemporaries, he began diversifying his grappling game. Nakashima would add some Jiu-Jitsu techniques to his grappling game and eventually became fascinated by striking.
The MMA Lab
Another key step in the journey of James Nakashima was moving over to The MMA Lab. Nakashima trains with the Garcia brothers for his boxing but also works with Giorgio Petrosyan on his standup. Nakashima has taken that “embrace the grind” ethos of wrestling and applied it to his striking game. This has resulted in him making huge leaps in his stand-up progress.
When speaking about the influence of The MMA Lab, Nakashima said “It’s given me every tool to be successful in this game and I’m just so grateful”. In addition to head coach John Crouch, Nakashima gets to regularly work with elite fighters. Names like Henry Corrales and Benson Henderson are but some of the many fighters regularly working at the perpetually growing gym.
The MMA Lab is certainly another contributing factor to explain the rapid rise and dominant performances of James Nakashima. While relatively inexperienced as an MMA fighter, Nakashima’s rock-solid grappling game allowed him to string together wins and carve out a streak that remains presently unbroken.
The LFA Circuit
James Nakashima’s spotless record led him through respected regional MMA show, Legacy Fighting Alliance. Nakashima debuted with the promotion, then known as RFA, and was able to achieve all the goals he had set out. James Nakashima climbed the ranks, won the title, and then defended the promotion’s welterweight belt. Nakashima also racked up some notable wins including Kyle Stewart, LaRue Burley, and Chance Rencountre.
The aforementioned Stewart actually began training with Nakashima after their bout and the two became friends. They are now learning together and growing alongside each other in a great display of normative martial arts respect. For James Nakashima, it got to a point where he needed to move on and achieve new goals. This would come in the form of signing with the Asian powerhouse organization ONE Championship.
The ONE Championship Journey
James Nakashima’s debut against Raimond Magomedaliev was an impressive one. Not only did Nakashima put the first blemish on Magomedaliev’s record but he did it using Magomedaliev’s own game. The grappling heavy Dagestan native had no answers for Nakashima’s crushing pressure, which helped him secure a unanimous decision win over a dominant fifteen minutes.
Nakashima was then able to score his first career finish over a seasoned veteran. Luis Santos is a dangerous customer who seems to get brought up frequently for his impassioned yet controversial performance against Ben Askren. It was a fairly dominant performance for Nakashima who put away a veteran of nearly 80 MMA fights early in round two. It certainly was not a sophomore slump for Nakashima in his second bout with ONE.
Nakashima said, “Every fight, it’s everything. Officially he was the most experienced opponent I fought in my entire career. Through my career, I’ve had a problem getting certain tough fights. That one was the difference”. Nakashima now finds himself in a position to collect his most noteworthy scalp to date.
James Nakashima vs Yushin Okami
Across multiple divisions over nearly 50 MMA fights, Okami has fought a veritable who’s who in the mixed-martial-arts world. Names like Anderson Silva, Chael Sonnen, Nate Marquardt, Hector Lombard, and Dean Lister are just a few of the wrecking machines Okami has competed against.
James Nakashima spoke favorably of his upcoming opponent. Nakashima said, “Long time UFC veteran. A lot of experience. It’s a difficult fight for me. I’m still learning every single day but it’s definitely something I’m ready for. He loves the grappling and he loves to force the clinch.”
All of this has been a whirlwind experience for a resident of an Illinois town with 4000 people. The pride of Dwight readies himself to compete in Manila with the eyes of the MMA world firmly affixed to him. Some pundits are speculating this will be a number one contender’s bout. Nakashima said, “ONE is really hush hush about everything so it’s hard to get anything out of them. But I definitely think it sets me up for something like that”.
Names like Demetrious Johnson, Eddie Alvarez, Eduard Folayang, and Martin Nguyen also bolster this blockbuster card. ONE: Dawn of Heroes will broadcast on ONE Championship’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. The main card goes on the ONE Championship app.