Tenshin Nasukawa is a rising star in Rizin, but after booking a fight with Floyd Mayweather he is now known around the world. But who is he, exactly?
Tenshin Nasukawa may well be the most interesting 20-year-old in combat sports.
Last week, Nasukawa was a relatively obscure fighter, globally-speaking. Though he is a rising star in Japanese mixed martial arts, he competes in the Rizin Fighting Federation, a promotion that is only three years old and receives little press in the US and the UK.
But what a difference a few days makes. Nasukawa has been thrust into the media spotlight as Rizin made a stunning announcement — the company's phenom will fight the unbeaten American boxer Floyd Mayweather in a bout with undetermined rules, at an undecided weight, on December 31 in Japan.
Despite his young age, Nasukawa is already an accomplished competitor with an unblemished processional record.
If his kickboxing record of 27-0 (20 wins by knockout), and his mixed martial arts record of 4-0 (two wins by knockout, and one by submission), are indicative of his promise, his impressive stoppage wins over the former IBF boxing world champion Amnat Ruenroeng and the former Muay Thai champion Wanchalong PK Senchaigym are testament to his talent-level.
His Instagram profile, which has 225,000 followers, suggests there's more to the fighter than a strong record, though.
Here's everything you need to know about Nasukawa, the fight game's newest star.
This is Tenshin Nasukawa. Born in 1998, Nasukawa grew to become a young boy with a fascination for aliens, anime, and for fighting. He has a black belt in the Kyokushin style of karate and is an expert kickboxer to boot.
Nasukawa began his combat sports journey when he started practicing karate at five years old. Before he turned professional, he had an amateur kickboxing record of 99 wins against five losses and one draw. Even more impressive, he beat prominent Muay Thai champion Wanchalong PK Senchaigym while he was still a student in high school. For many, this was when a new legend was born.
Nasukawa is a big fan of cartoons, specifically those from Japan. He grew up on anime, and likes shows like "One Piece," "Naruto," and "Hajime no Ippo" (pictured below), a Japanese manga series focusing on a student who begins a career in boxing, beating up multiple opponents and winning many championships. Nasukawa himself competed in over 100 fights before he had even left high school, so it could be just a matter of time before he is immortalised in an anime or manga series of his own.
Nasukawa is renowned for his flashy fighting style. He has a standing stance not too dissimilar to the ones adopted by Ryu or Ken in the smash hit video game series "Street Fighter," and some of his power strikes are just as eye-catching as he uses "rolling thunder" kicks and "wheel kicks."
If watching him shadow-box was not hypnotic enough, he is even more spell-binding when he is in full flow, in the middle of the ring, against world-level opponents. Here, Nasukawa stops a former world champion boxer — the aforementioned Ruenroeng — in a kickboxing fight in 2017. His finishing blow was a rib-piercing bodyshot.
He has many interests away from the ring, and enjoys playing guitar…
An interview in 2017, Nasukawa said he'd want to be a cockroach if he could be any animal in the world because "their ability to survive is extremely high." He also admitted that he is most afraid of ghosts because they are "freaky as h-ll," and his most embarrassing moment was when he "confessed" to his crush. His successes in the ring presumably outnumber his embarrassments away from it, though.
Nasukawa's Instagram account reveals a few people he appears to idolise. There's "Ultraman," a cybernetic superhero who protects Earth from an alien invasion in the Japanese tokusatsu science fiction television series of the same name…
…there's his "hero" Neymar, the superstar soccer player who competes for Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazil national team…
… and, of course, there's Floyd Mayweather. When Nasukawa was 14, he was watching attentively when the American overcame an early onslaught, to outpoint 2014 opponent Marcos Maidana in a 12-round brawl at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Perhaps Nasukawa always dreamed of landing a big fight against someone like Mayweather, and will get his shot next month when he competes against the 41-year-old in front of 37,000 fans at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama City, north of Tokyo.
The age difference between Nasukawa, who is 20, and Mayweather, who turns 42 in February, is vast. To put it in context, Mayweather had already won an Olympic medal and was training to take part in his first professional world title fight before Nasukawa had even been born. Mayweather, boxing's first billionaire with ambitions of buying an NBA team, is fighting a kid half his age who takes videos in the bath using a Harry Potter filter.
The fight was announced at a Rizin Fighting Federation press conference earlier this month, and stunned the combat sports industry because of how surprising it was. "The biggest event in my life has become reality," Nasukawa said. "I think that everyone is surprised, but I am the same."
He added: "I have punches of timing that boxers do not have. The [weight] class is also different, but it does not matter to me now. I will do KO for the first time that nobody could do in the world. I will change the world with my own fist."
Though the rules are yet to be decided, Nasukawa is confident of victory. "I'll absolutely win," he said.
Only time will tell if Nasukawa, who has only tasted success as a professional athlete, will be the one celebrating after the Mayweather bout.