Yoshitaka Naito Feels This is His Final Chance to Reclaim ONE Championship Belt from Alex Silva


Yoshitaka Naito is self consciously nerdy. He doesn't like to portray himself as being a typical alpha male MMA fighter, but you don't win your first 12 fights, capturing two titles in the process, without a sense of ambition. The defeat to Alex Silva last December was the first of his entire career. It cost the 34-year-old his ONE Championship title, but he is not about to change his attitude or approach. In fact, as Naito prepares for Saturday's rematch, he remains relentlessly self deprecating. “That (first fight with Silva) was my first time meeting an athlete who is good at everything. After the loss, I felt I was not good enough at anything.” Naito went the distance with Silva, but never looked like he was winning the fight and the Japanese strawweight feels he might have underestimated his opponent. “Alex had more superiority in the cage (and) I could not do what I wanted to do. In the beginning, I thought his weakness was striking since he is a Jiu-Jitsu fighter, but it turned out that his strikes hurt a lot.” Naito is a submission specialist, but Silva holds a BJJ black belt. The Japanese strawweight knew this was one fight he wouldn't be able to dominate on the ground, but was not expecting to find himself comprehensively out-struck by the Brazilian. “I was adapting throughout the match. In every aspect, my game plan failed.” At ONE: Grit and Glory in Jakarta on Saturday, he will get another opportunity to fight for the belt. A few months ago, fans were wondering whether anyone on the roster could challenge Naito, but now it is more a question of will he ever get to wear the belt again? The decision by ONE Championship to arrange an immediate rematch raised a few eyebrows. It also put Naito's back firmly against the wall. If he goes 0-2 against Silva, there will be no appetite for a third fight, and the Japanese fighter feels this is his final chance. “I think having a rematch this soon is rare, and there will not be a third time. It is going to be the last match against him in my life, so it is really important for me. The difference from the last time is that he is the champion (while) I am the challenger now. I know he is strong, I will just do my best.” Should Naito win the belt and level the score with Silva, a third fight seems distinctly probable. However, he's not looking ahead of Saturday's fight and is motivated by the prospect of fighting the division's best, as well as potentially reclaiming hat belt. TRENDING > Yair Rodriguez Released from the UFC “The championship belt is special for me. I am so honored to be able to fight with the strongest athlete and I have a chance to get the championship belt. That makes (this fight) very special for me.” Having won his first 12 fights, Naito has experienced less adversity than the average fighter. It took six years as a professional for him endure his first loss, but the for…

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