Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito faces the stiffest test of his career on 9 December, when he puts his ONE Strawweight World Title on the line against Brazlian jiu-jitsu world champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva at ONE: WARRIORS OF THE WORLD.
The Japanese grappler faces the Brazilian submission ace in a fascinating clash at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand – a battle between two of the very best ground specialists in ONE Championship.
Silva booked his place in the title bout against Naito with a hugely impressive first-round submission finish of undefeated wrestler Hayato Suzuki, and the manner of the Brazilian’s victory wasn’t lost on the defending champion.
“Hayato is known as one of the best wrestlers in Japan, so I was shocked to see him lose against a jiu-jitsu champion,” he admitted. “Alex Silva’s grappling is incredibly good.”
After that performance, Naito knew he’d be matched up with Silva, and he was happy to accept the challenge. He believes that a long, drawn-out contest favours him, with Silva’s wins coming in quickfire fashion.
“Silva’s strength is of course his ground techniques, but his striking is probably not a big threat,” he suggested.
“Silva has never gone five rounds, so if it goes the distance, it will be my time.
“I have respect toward jiu-jitsu, so If I win, my confidence will expand and will take me to the next level.”
Naito joined ONE Championship in May 2016 having already captured the Shooto Flyweight Title, then picked up the ONE Strawweight Title on his promotional debut, handing Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke the first defeat of his career.
He then successfully defended his newly-won title with a third-round submission of Filipino Joshua Pacio in Yangon, Myanmar, in October 2016 to cement his status as the premier strawweight in ONE Championship.
“It was a really tough bout, so I am glad I was able to defend my belt,” he admitted.
“In the beginning, I was amazed because Joshua’s power was more than I expected, but I was calm enough to cope with it.
“I underestimated Filipino athletes’ martial arts skills. Their skills are evolving rapidly. It turned out to be my motivation to also improve my overall skills to go to the next level.”
Since that bout, Naito has been fine-tuning his skills at Paraestra Matsudo in Chiba ahead of his next title challenge.
And now, paired with fast-rising star Silva, Naito knows he faces the toughest test of his career, as he bids to hang onto the ONE Championship belt, undefeated record, and everything the world title stands for.
“The ONE Strawweight World Championship belt is the symbol of being the strongest, the best in the world,” he proudly stated.
“Martial arts taught me plenty of things and has made my life shine.”