A new UFC star is born after a 27-year-old debutante obliterated his MMA opponent with ease on ESPN
- The UFC may have a new star on its hands.
- Rinya Nakumara, 27, obliterated his MMA opponent Saturday and earned a contract to fight in UFC.
LAS VEGAS — The UFC may have a new star on its hands after Rinya Nakamura bludgeoned Toshiomi Kazama in an electric bantamweight bout Saturday at the Apex in Enterprise, Nevada, six miles southwest of the famous Las Vegas strip.
Nakamura and Kazama's fight was a tournament final for the "Road to UFC" TV series, which showcased top Asian combat sports prospects in events mostly taking place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang.
The finals, which took place over the weekend in the US, were broadcast on ESPN. A full-time UFC contract was handed to each winner from the four "Road to UFC" finals.
In Nakamura, the UFC has welcomed someone particularly exciting to its roster, as the 27-year-old excelled in the Octagon. He overwhelmed Kazama with an aggression that was as accurate as it was merciless, dropping his opponent with a crisp right hook, varying his attack with head kicks, and finishing him for good with a crisp punch and then a hammer fist.
"He has a very strong heart, so I thought he might get up, and I needed to finish him completely," Nakamura told Insider and other reporters after his win.
Watch the highlights right here:
What made the 27-year-old Japanese fighter's victory all the more impressive was that boxing isn't even supposed to be his forte.
Nakamura is a wrestler by trade and even told Insider backstage that he prefers when fights find their way to the ground, so that he can suffocate opponents with his freestyle wrestling skills.
"I need to use more my wrestling for my next fight," he told us. "I prefer the grappling game, honestly. Because that situation [winning fights specifically with a stand-up approach] isn't common" for me, Nakamura said.
On his trajectory in the UFC now that he's stamped his ticket to become a part of the market-leading MMA promotion, Nakamura said that if he focuses on the process rather than results, he'll "be a champion in the UFC."
UFC boss Dana White told Insider: "Listen, if you can get into the UFC and break into the top five, it's a huge win for you.
"Not everyone gets to be a world champion," White added. "The absolute best of the best fight here, and we just like to see guys break into the top five. If they can become world champions, that's incredible."
—Al Dawson (@AlanDawsonSport) February 5, 2023
Kevin Chang, the senior vice president of UFC Asia, told Insider that Nakamura was "a very talented fighter coming into the entire tournament, and somebody we've had our eyes on for a while.
"His background, he started at such an early age, the training he's done — his ceiling is very, very high," Chang said.
Nakamura said he'd celebrate his win by gambling in the city of sin
For Nakamura, there's only one way to celebrate after scoring the seventh win of his career, and the first in Las Vegas.
"Gamble … gamble," he said. "I prefer simple games, so roulette, slots, and blackjack. Wish me luck."
When Insider told Dana White later that Nakamura will be playing blackjack, the UFC president said: "I like his style."
Stories of White's gambling are notorious in Las Vegas, and talkSPORT even reported in 2022 that he once won $7 million from one night at the blackjack tables.
On whether he had any advice for Nakamura, though, he told us while laughing: "Don't do it. Go home, sit in your room, or go to a buffet."
It is unclear when Nakamura will return to the Octagon.
He fought three times in 2022 and said he would like a short break from the sport as the "Road to UFC" tournament was so grueling.
Considering how awesomely he performed on Saturday, though, fight fans may hope he comes back sooner rather than later.
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