Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito returns to action at ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES looking to pick up where he left off.
Naito’s reign as ONE Strawweight World Champion was abruptly halted in December 2017 when he was outpointed by Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD.
But the Japanese star went back to the drawing board, identified where he fell narrowly short in their first contest, then came back to edge a split decision and reclaim the title in their rematch at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY in May.
“Coming to terms with having lost for the first time in my career was a strange, but painful experience,” he recalls.
“Losing is never far-fetched whenever I step into the cage, but experiencing it for the first time took some time to digest.
“Going into the bout, I knew that I could not afford to lose to the same opponent twice.
“Also, I was fortunate enough to be offered the rematch so soon, and my biggest fear was to not be able to give everything I had in the bout.”
One of the keys to Naito’s success in the rematch was the recognition of the mistake that helped give the advantage to Silva in their first contest.
“Since Silva is a jiu-jitsu black belt renowned for his grappling prowess, I tried to force him into a stand-up exchange, and it turned out to be a naïve decision,” he admits.
“Throughout the fight, I found myself having to react to whatever Silva threw at me, and being unable to utilise my tenacity to outwork him.”
Naito went to his team and worked tirelessly on his all-around game, while also strengthening his resolve.
When the pair met in the rematch, “Nobita” had the upper hand, despite being considered the underdog.
“Given the outcome of our first fight, a lot of people probably predicted that I would lose again,” he says.
“In the end, I stopped thinking and analysing too much, and instead just focused on going all-out.
“In taking back my championship I merely showed my usual tenacity to the fullest extent possible, and it worked.”
Naito’s performance saw him edge a super-competitive, five-round bout, which he won by split decision.
In the first defence of his second reign, he will face a test in another rematch – against from the Philippines’ Joshua Pacio.
After losing his title after underestimating his opponent once, you can be sure “Nobita” will have left no stone unturned in his preparation to face the surging Team Lakay contender.