Following his split-decision victory over Derrick Krantz at LFA 23 in September of 2017, middleweight James Nakashima has spent nearly an entire year on the sidelines.
During the fight with Krantz, Nakashima sustained an injury that he was able to work through as he picked up the win, but the severity of it has kept him out of action since.
“I had to rehab from an ACL tear from that last fight,” Nakashima told MMAWeekly.com. “We have a really good strength and conditioning coach at the MMA Lab and he helped me every step of the way. I feel really confident coming back from that.
“I think (the injury occurred) in the second round when I was going for a takedown. That was a really tough fight, especially getting dropped in the first round, and then in the second round (the injury) happens. Derrick is a really tough fighter.”
While Nakashima has remained motivated to return from the injury, he admits that his eagerness might have gotten the better of him at times during the recovery process.
“At the moment I felt like I just hunkered down and said I’d get through it, but looking back on it, it was a little more difficult than I thought,” said Nakashima. “I did get down on myself at some point. I did train hard on it a little earlier than I should, but I got lucky and everything is straight now.”
For his first bout back from injury, Nakashima (8-0) will look to defend his 185-pound championship against Kyle Stewart (10-0) in the main event of LFA 46 in Newport News, Virginia, this Friday.
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“I think Kyle is another solid opponent,” Nakashima said. “He’s one of the top prospects not only in the U.S., but in the entire world. But I think I’m elite. I think I’m one of the best welterweights in the world. I want to put the pace on and make him dig deep.”
With many believing the winner of Friday’s bout could put them at the next level, for Nakashima it’s not enough to just win to make it there, but have the kind of performance that guarantees a step up.
“To be where I want to be, to prove that I am one of the best welterweights in the world, I have to be in the UFC and I’ve got to prove it,” said Nakashima. “The big knock on me is that I don’t have any finishes. So a win isn’t good enough for me. I’ve got to finish guys.”
“I’m focused on beating Kyle and really beating him up. I’m not worried about the win or loss; but just going out there and executing my game plan and doing all this stuff that I’ve been working on this last year.”