UFC expressed interest in Tenshin Nasukawa ‘a few years ago’ says longtime Japanese MMA manager Shu Hirata

By Drake Riggs - March 16, 2021

Prodigy kickboxing sensation Tenshin Nasukawa is already one of the best ever in his sport despite his age. Apparently, there was a point where the world’s premier MMA promotion wanted to get their hands on the Chiba Prefecture native.

Tenshin Nasukawa, ONE Championship

41-0 at just age 22, Nasukawa first stepped foot inside the RIZIN FF ring at RIZIN 9 in 2017. He’s fought under the banner 13 times overall and looked virtually flawless in all outings – excluding an exhibition boxing match vs. Floyd Mayweather.

When speaking on his YouTube channel where he’s begun doing live stream discussions, longtime MMA manager in the Japanese fight scene, Shu Hirata, spoke about past interest promotions have had in the superstar striker.

“RIZIN has a long-term contract with Tenshin, that long-term contract will expire at the end of this year,” Hirata said on Let’s Talk JMMA w/ Charlie Jewett. “A few years ago, both UFC and ONE [Championship] actually wanted to sign Tenshin. You might feel it’s a surprise for UFC to actually go after him, right? Cause he’s only had a couple MMA fights. But [UFC Matchmaker] Sean Shelby said that he’s very impressed with Tenshin’s fight IQ, and Mick Maynard actually reached out to me and asked me for his manager’s contact info – which I gave to him. So I’m pretty sure they reached out to him but, of course, you know.”

Nasukawa most recently performed on February 28 at RISE: Eldorado 2021 when he picked up a unanimous decision in a rematch with Shiro. Prior to that, “Teppen” dispatched of Thailand’s Kumandoi Petcharoenvit at RIZIN 26 – what many believed to be a step towards the dream matchup between Nasukawa and Takeru Segawa.

When it comes to MMA and the UFC regarding kickboxers, in particular, this wouldn’t be the first case where they expressed interest. In 2017, the promotion signed legendary kickboxer Gokhan Saki who went 1-1 in the promotion. Nasukawa has currently tried his hand in four MMA bouts and won all of them.

“Meanwhile, I actually heard from his coaches and people around him that Tenshin feels MMA is a sport that you really need many, many years of training to transform yourself into an MMA fighter,” Hirata said.