A Deadline For Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Takeru Has Been Set. Can It Be Met?

Tenshin Nasukawa walks to the RIZIN ring.
Many have called for Tenshin Nasukawa (pictured) to fight Takeru Segawa. (RIZIN FF)

For years, many have considered a fight between RIZIN and RISE Kickboxing star Tenshin Nasukawa and K-1 Japan talent Takeru Segawa one of the biggest matchups that could be made in kickboxing. However, it hasn’t been made. And whether it will ever happen is yet to be seen.

Both fighters have expressed interest in competing – Takeru even attended Nasukawa’s fight in late 2020. The promoters have shown enthusiasm about making the fight. But, the politics of the fight game have prevailed thus far, leaving the status of the fight unknown.

Questions are still up in the air about whether Nasukawa and Takeru will ever grace the same ring. However, we now know when we will get a verdict. With Nasukawa eyeing a career in boxing, he has put forward a timeline for his kickboxing career: his last RIZIN fight will be on New Year’s Eve this year, and his career in boxing will kick off in 2022.

This leaves time, albeit not a lot, for a kickboxing superfight to be made – but will it?

Knockdown News reached out to knowledgeable names in the kickboxing world to hear if they think the fight will ever happen. The response from people? It’s complicated. And as you will see, it’s not something that can be summarized with a “yes” or “no.” It’s a complex issue that leaves pundits hoping, but maybe not hopeful.

Here’s what they had to say. Parts of the responses have been edited for clarity and length purposes.

@ApparatusFlatus

Even though it’s closer than ever before I don’t think it’ll happen simply because there’s so many points of failure along any potential path to get it done. The knot is not un-untieable but there are just so many stakeholders with so many opposing interests.

Firstly, K-1 aren’t opposed to it but their central demand is that it needs to take place under a “neutral” banner. To that end RIZIN set up the thin veneer of whatever the hell MEGA was supposed to be, whether that would truly satisfy K-1 or not I have no idea (RIZIN CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara looked to launch an event called “MEGA2021” earlier this year – a plan that has not been addressed for months now).

It’s pretty obvious that Takeru is butting up against his physical limits now, he’s constantly injured, and it’s hard to see his career lasting much longer. He’s always pushed himself in pursuit of pretty lofty goals, he basically achieved his aim of getting K-1 back on terrestrial television, but the broadcast was eventually axed due to the bad PR of running K’Festa 3 during the pandemic. His other goal is fighting Tenshin, and I think faced with the prospect of getting no more Takeru fights or getting one more Takeru fight, K-1 will be a bit more flexible than usual.

There’s been rumors for a while that the Dynamite branding is going to be resurrected. I know Rizin quite often do two-day events, I think running one day as an “unaffiliated” show and the other as RIZIN is plausible, but again I have no idea if that satisfies the demand for neutrality if it’s just a thinly papered over RIZIN show. This also ignores the crucial problem of broadcasting before even getting into tedious negotiations about rules or what RISE will want and need.

Broadcasting is probably the biggest one. RIZIN obviously control the gates to terrestrial TV with their Fuji TV deal, but CyberAgent (the parent company of online broadcaster Abema and major sponsor CyGames) recently bought a stake in K-1, give major support to RISE, and have been building out a PPV service. They have major skin in the game and as they have financial levers over K-1 and RISE are the path of least resistance. That said, it’s also probably the least attractive way to actually hold the fight and has a ceiling in terms of viewership and impact, and for PPV certainly a low ceiling in terms of buys. Who knows if they’re willing to cede any ground, and if so what their demands would be to hold it on Fuji.

RISE and their CEO Takashi Ito have also been very quiet and diplomatic throughout this whole thing, but undoubtedly present issues too. RISE have recently begun branding their own once-a-year large-scale shows, RISE El Dorado, around a similar time as the K’Festa shows. Tenshin will almost certainly have his kickboxing retirement bout under that banner early next year. Official gym affiliation is a pretty big deal in Japanese combat sports and officially speaking, Tenshin is affiliated with TARGET (owned and run by Ito) even though in reality he’s at the gym his dad owns (TEPPEN), and that still counts for something even though inevitably both of those relationships will come to an end when he joins a boxing gym. RISE will want something out of this, and what that is I have no idea.

Then there’s the matter of Tenshin’s boxing ambitions. To preface this I don’t believe he or his team are “scared” or ducking anyone, but put simply it would be disastrous to not transition to boxing with an undefeated record and it’s easier to not waste limited time on dead-end negotiations with a more dangerous opponent when he can just keep doing what he’s been doing, give RISE a high note to go out on, and start a boxing career with the shine of an undefeated kickboxing record. For that reason I also believe that even if it did happen, it wouldn’t turn out to be the fight people want because Tenshin would have his eyes on protecting what’s over the horizon.

The long and short of it is that I don’t believe it will happen but it’s not impossible. But even if it does happen, I think when people look back on this era in hindsight this bout won’t actually be the brightest point.

Blaine Henry – @BlaineHenryTFL

Japanese kickboxing is the best in the world. If you look at any top pound for pound rankings, Tenshin Nasukawa and Takeru are at the top of the list almost every time. It’s easy to see why: they dominate.

Fans are fortunate to see these two compete at the same time and in the same weight class. Why not make the biggest kickboxing fight possible and have Tenshin x Takeru?

The issue lies in time. Tenshin Nasukawa has put a time limit on his kickboxing career to pursue boxing. That has fans worried that we will never see the best match in the sport. That said, I feel as if Tenshin will go out with a bang and fight Takeru as his final kickboxing bout.

Tenshin has a flair for the dramatic. He enjoys putting on a show. What is more dramatic than the hardest fight of his career in his last fight as a professional kickboxer? A win would be the ultimate triumph for Tenshin.

The fight is the biggest fight to be made in kickboxing right now. It would be a crime to miss out on such a large event for not only the sport of kickboxing but for Japan as well.

Daniel Dziubicki – @DDziubicki

Tenshin’s last year before boxing is a bit disappointing … First, he fought Shiro since he won a tournament in RISE. Then we received that weird three-versus-one idea, which was a bit last minute according to RIZIN CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara.

I believe that lack of fight [for Nasukawa] vs Takeru is a result of bad luck and coincidence. In the future, I would like to see Tenshin in two bouts till the end of the year. We should also remember that his farewell kickboxing fight will take in RISE in March 2022. Two appearances this year is possible, in my opinion.

About K-1’s words about “neutral” ground – it’s possible that we will see some special co-promoted event like Dynamite!! in 2002. Maybe it will be in September (I don’t know, I guess), maybe on NYE.

(For context, “Dynamite!!” was an event co-promoted by MMA promotion Pride FC and kickboxing promotion K-1 in 2002.)

What Do You Think?

Do you think there is time for Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Takeru? Can it happen? Let us know on Twitter: @KnockdownNews

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