Nobutatsu Suzuki did not start MMA until relatively late in life. He was 27 when he made his debut, but the Japanese welterweight quickly set about making up for lost time by stopping ten separate opponents to run up a 10-1-2 record.
His most recent victory was arguably the most eye-catching because it came at the expense of Pride, Strikeforce and UFC veteran Phil Baroni, whom Suzuki finished with a barrage of punches and knees in the opening round.
That fight at ONE FC: Rise to Power in Manila was Suzuki’s first outside of Japan and he regards it as the highlight of his career.
“It was my best enjoyable fight among all my fights. I want to challenge the best fighters in the world and I believe that ONE FC gives me the best stage to do this,” he said.
Suzuki will be center stage on Nov. 15 when he takes on Adam Kayoom in the main event of ONE FC: Warrior Spirit in Kuala Lumpur. His fight with the 4-1 Malaysian will be for the inaugural welterweight title and is set for five rounds.
The Zst veteran has never fought more than two rounds before because fights in the Japanese promotion are only scheduled for two and he doesn’t generally need much longer than that to score a knockout or TKO anyway.
If Kayoom can survive the opening two rounds, Suzuki will be in unchartered territory, but he says he is not nervous about the prospect of fighting past the ten-minute mark for the first time in his eight-year career.
“I’m always ready to fight the full rounds. I am training my best now in Japan; it is not a problem.”
Suzuki is a Karate specialist who has gained a reputation in the MMA world for proficiency with knees; four of his nine stoppage wins have come via this method. His finishing rate is remarkable and he says he started learning these skills as a schoolboy.
“I started Karate when I was 15 because I lost a street fight. I was heavyweight champion at a high school tournament in Tochigi Prefecture, heavyweight champion at a Kyokushin tournament in West Castle, heavyweight champion at MAC Karate Challenge Championship, and a champion with brown and black belt at the Seibukai Autumn tournament,” he said.
In 2005, Suzuki decided to try and transition to mixed martial arts because he “was wondering whether or not my Karate would work well at MMA.” The answer was an emphatic yes, but despite running up one of the most respectable records in the welterweight division, he has not given up his day job.
“I am an administrative scrivener. I always need to work with my clients every day, so it is not easy to find spare time for training, but I do not want this to become an excuse, so I try to be strict with my time schedule. It’s no problem.”
Kayoom is a former Muay Thai world champion and has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Suzuki’s sole career loss was a submission at the hands of Keita Nakamura last year and he has plenty of respect for the ground game of the Malaysian, who has far more fighting experience than his 4-1 record suggests.
“I realize that he is an excellent total fighter and is very good at ground,” Suzuki said.
While Suzuki might have a clear edge in terms of the quantity of his MMA fights, Kayoom has fought some famous Muay Thai fighters in his time and also won numerous tournaments in both BJJ and Taekwondo.
With so many stoppage wins to his name, Suzuki must believe he is capable of breaking Kayoom’s three-fight winning streak, which included a hard-fought decision against Gregor Gracie, and he has no qualms about doing it in his opponent’s back yard.
“I don’t want to seem conceited, but if I was not confident I would not be going in the cage,” he said.
Those words will sound ominous to the Malaysian fans desperate to see their hero win the title in his hometown, but Suzuki is only a knockout away from becoming the inaugural ONE FC welterweight champion. He has five rounds to find the finish, but history suggests he might not need more than two.
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