Japan has a strong history of mixed martial arts (MMA). The nation has been the site of legendary fight promotions such as Pancrase, Shooto, DREAM and PRIDE.
From fearless strikers to elite submission grapplers, the “Land of the Rising Sun” also provided the sport with a long list of extraordinary fighters. In fact, Kotetsu “No Face” Boku is revered as a combat legend in the well-established Japanese MMA scene.
With more than 30 professional bouts on his resume, Boku has the experience of a seasoned veteran and has seen it all inside the cage or in the ring.
Always a crowd pleaser, Boku utilizes his dynamic boxing background with world-class grappling to subdue his opponents.
The 40-year-old Japanese warrior achieved a career-defining moment in October 2012 when he captured the inaugural ONE Lightweight World Championship title by defeating Zorobabel Moreira via a stunning third-round technical knockout.
However, his reign as the lightweight kingpin of ONE Championship was short-lived as he relinquished the coveted gold-plated strap to fellow Japanese MMA icon Shinya Aoki in April 2013.
Ever since dropping the belt to Aoki, the opportunity to vie for the prestigious ONE Lightweight World Championship has shied away from Boku, who had mixed results in his last seven outings under the promotion’s banner.
Despite the rollercoaster ride in his illustrious 38-fight professional career, Boku stressed that fighting for the organization’s world lightweight title remains his top priority.
“My dream, goal and vision to have a title shot are still alive. I did not get to fight for it once more. This is another step or another journey to elevate my status as a contender for the title,” he said.
After picking up a first-round stoppage victory over Timofey Nastyukhin this past November, Boku returns to action and squares off with lightweight newcomer Eric “The Natural” Kelly of the Philippines on the undercard of ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS in Macao, China this Saturday.
Boku said his three-round lightweight encounter with Kelly will serve as a standard of measure to determine if he is still within the top-caliber rank in the sport.
“Yes, I will gauge my performance. I am still hungry. I still have the heart to compete,” he stated. “Eric Kelly is a talented competitor. He is also a veteran like me. I must improve my overall game in all scenarios and make a good plan to win the fight.”
Although he is already at tail end of his celebrated MMA run, Boku still has championship aspirations on his mind.
Boku believes that a decisive win over Kelly will put him one step closer to a date with reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang, whom he met in a May 2014 lightweight contest but lost.
“Yes, of course I would love to fight Eduard Folayang again. I must keep fighting with big wins to face him again,” he shared.
As he tries to prove that there is enough fuel left in his tank to push through with his MMA stint, Boku admitted that he treats every single bout as his last.
“I am training and always prepared for retirement because I do not know what may happen to my life. Of course, I want to leave the sport as a world champion. I am digging deep to reach that goal. I will give everything I got in my upcoming fight,” he concluded.