JMMA Monday: The Combat Sports World Prepares For ‘THE MATCH’

Tenshin Nasukawa walks to the RIZIN ring.
Tenshin Nasukawa (pictured) will face Takeru this weekend at “THE MATCH.” (RIZIN FF)

The “JMMA Monday” series is meant to focus on Japanese MMA. But this week, we must expand our horizons and look more broadly at the combat sports scene. This is because one of the biggest, if not the biggest kickboxing bout of the year is just days away, and it is undoubtedly going to be the biggest story coming out of this weekend.

Aptly titled “THE MATCH,” a fight between Tenshin Nasukawa and Takeru is scheduled to take place on Sunday. The big fight has a big stage: a sold-out Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan.

This bout is nothing short of a superfight. These two names are known as goliaths for their respective promotions – Nasukawa dominated RISE Kickboxing and RIZIN. Takeru reigned over K-1 Japan. For years, it was wondered how these two would ever cross paths.

In the 11th hour of Nasukawa’s career, the long-awaited fight was made. Win or lose, Nasukawa is expected to retire from kickboxing this weekend and move onto a career in boxing. The biggest fight of his career will fittingly also be his last. Before he is scheduled to depart to a new sport, Nasukawa has a chance to prove himself against Takeru. Of course, on the other side of things, Takeru has the ability to show that he is the better fighter as well.

This fight wasn’t easy to make. It has been documented before how many had anxieties in previous years, worrying that the bout would never be made. Lots of barriers, like co-promotion for example, had to be dealt with to get to this point.

And even after the fight was made, issues didn’t stop coming. Most notably, accusations that RIZIN CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara worked with a business partner that had ties to organized crime caused a big mess. These allegations, which Sakakibara has denied, made many worry that blowback could cause “THE MATCH” to get completely called off.

Broadcast issues followed. Network television channel Fuji TV won’t be televising the fight, stating that they never reached a contract with the promoters despite previously planning to air it. While no further reason was stated by the TV company, Sakakibara mentioned that the controversy surrounding him could have been part of it.

And outside of Japan, another problem came up. Last week, international viewers learned that a broadcast would not be available for them. The pay-per-view broadcast provided by Abema TV is possible to watch, but only if a working VPN service can get you through their geoblock. This, of course, will block many viewers from experiencing the event in real time, causing a big blow to the audience that was intrigued.

The road toward “THE MATCH” was long and had lots of twists and turns. Nonetheless, the hype is still high among kickboxing viewers. The fight is still high stakes, and it is a dream matchup for many that has come to life.

To capture the feelings surrounding “THE MATCH,” Knockdown News put out a call-out to viewers. In May, we asked to hear the perspective of those anticipating the kickboxing bout. We made the boundaries as wide as possible: simply tell us what is on your mind.

We got some interesting responses from readers. Here are a collection of quotes that were provided to us.

Some responses have been edited due to length, or so that they align with the grammar and spelling style guide set for


“While it would have been swell to have booked “THE MATCH” in 2017, in a way it’s kind of fitting to have it now. With Tenshin Nasukawa off to boxing and folk speculating about Takeru’s future after June, we might be saying goodbye to two of Japanese kickboxing’s flagbearers, who have dominated the last decade. So enjoy the moment, and keep an eye on the exciting talent on the undercard.”


“‘THE MATCH’ between Takeru vs Tenshin will hopefully provide a boost to the Japanese combat sports scene. A decisive Takeru win via KO could result in a second match that would do even bigger business. Could Tenshin move away from the sport after receiving his first knockout loss? Would Takeru decline a rematch, become the A-Side in negotiations or retire from the sport altogether? These are storylines I haven’t seen discussed. The undercard is really stacked with names that could receive an added fanbase by appearing on this card. I am more so looking forward to the potential impact on the sport than the main event itself because the two main eventers only provide a finite resource to fuel growth in the scene. Let’s see if this event can create future stars and make Japan the undisputed center of the kickboxing world.”


“[I’m] really looking forward to “THE MATCH,” it’s a great look for kickboxing and Japan as a combat sports nation in this post-Olympic year. I’m gutted the fight isn’t a five-rounder, but I still favor Takeru to eventually walk Tenshin down with his irrepressible knees and body shots.”


“BeyondKickcord copium’d this fight into existence and I will hear it no other way. Jokes aside, what can one really say about THE MATCH? Once in a generation, possibly once ever, fight and a fantastic event on the back of it? Not much more a JKick fan could ask for.”

Larry Duke/@TheReaLarryDuke

“This is the single biggest dream match in combat sport to me in my entire life. Bigger than Mayweather-Pacquiao. Bigger than Hogan-Sting. Bigger than Khabib-Conor. I knew for sure who was going to win all of those matches. This is different. They are both in their prime and on insane win streaks. They are both elite talents with the exact style that their opponent struggles with most. There’s also the extra excitement that comes from all those years of thinking the fight couldn’t be made. And I don’t know who is going to win.”

“I am enormously disappointed that it is a three-round fight. A fight of this magnitude should be five rounds. It feels like Takeru had to concede everything (rules, weight, # of rounds) and so the fight is designed to increase the odds of a Tenshin win rather than to establish who is the better fighter.”

On who they are rooting for: “I was neutral before but I am now rooting for Takeru. The rules suggest that he made the sacrifices necessary to make the match happen whereas Tenshin would only agree if the rules gave him advantages.”

Other Notes From The Week

  • This is usually the part of the post where I go “well there’s not much else to discuss but here’s what I pulled together for you to look at.” That’s certainly not the case this week. There is a lot to talk about, and I had real trouble figuring out how to sequence these news stories.
  • So, something weird is likely about to happen. But, it might not be something we haven’t already seen before. Here’s the deal: Floyd Mayweather is expected to hold a press conference tonight along with RIZIN. A press release issued earlier this week said it will be “announcing [Mayweather’s] next venture into the ring with RIZIN.”
    • Mayweather’s previous “venture into the ring with RIZIN” was notorious, to say the least. In 2018 he steamrolled Tenshin Nasukawa in an exhibition boxing bout, knocking him down three times in one round for a stoppage win.
    • Who knows what will happen this time? Earlier this week I asked for your worst suggestions. My favorite is a little evil: Just do Mayweather vs. Nasukawa again.
    • A link to the press conference is here. It will start at around 10PM EDT (11AM JST).
  • The International Report is incredibly busy this week.
    • Massive headlines coming out of UFC 275. The biggest, of course, is former RIZIN Light Heavyweight Champion Jiri Prochazka claiming the UFC 205-pound belt with a fifth-round finish of Glover Teixeira.
      • It’s a massive moment for Prochazka, and it’s big to see a JMMA name like him claim a belt.
      • lukeuidswords pointed out something interesting about the past and present of Prochazka and Vadim Nemkov. “It was written…”
    • Also: the “Road To UFC” event started this weekend, and lots of JMMA names competed.
      • There were many things to mention about these shows. On the first card, Jinnosuke Kashimura and Keisuke Sasu (also known as “SASUKE”) lost their respective bouts. Toshiomi Kazama prevailed in his bantamweight fight.
      • Koyomi Matsushima scored a win on the second card. Prospect Takeru Uchida also had a strong showing in a non-tournament fight.
      • LDH Entertainment talent Rinya Nakamura submitted Gugun Gusman early. Other LDH name, Sho Patrick Usami, didn’t compete due to weight cut issues. RIZIN alum Topnoi Kiwram defeated former LFA title challenger Yuma Horiuchi, then picked up some attention in the press for his celebratory cigarette smoking.
      • On the fourth and final show, Shohei Nose advanced in the bantamweight tournament.
      • It’s not known at the moment when the semi-finals for the “Road To UFC” tournament will take place. However, when it happens, there will be numerous JMMA representatives still in the tournament.
  • Pancrase announced this week that Suguru Nii will return at their July 18th show against Reo Hansen. Nii notably competed in RIZIN twice from October 2021 to February. He’ll be attempting to break a three-fight skid in his return to the promotion.
  • Ending the week on a fun note: RIZIN ambassador Kurumi faced ring girl Natsuki Kawamura in a grappling match. They hyped this matchup for quite some time before it actually happened – I think it started as a joke and then morphed into an actual thing? Don’t take my word regarding that.
    • You can watch their grappling bout here. Spoiler, (spoiler? Is anyone going to be upset if they read the result?) Kurumi taps Kawamura from her back with an armbar. Kurumi looked like a skilled grappler here, so it’s no surprise that this article says she has been training for three years. So… Kurumi in the RIZIN ring when?

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