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Timofey Nastyukhin ready to get Amir Khan “out of the way” in Yangon

Russian lightweight is looking to make up for lost time at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD in Yangon

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Fully recovered from injury, Russia’s Timofey Nastyukhin is ready to return to action and blaze a trail all the way to the ONE Lightweight World Title.

Nastyukhin returns to the ONE Championship cage at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD on Friday, 23 February when he takes on Singaporean knockout artist Amir Khan at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar.

”I must stop Amir Khan inside three rounds to establish a strong position in the lightweight division,” stated the 28-year-old during an interview with ONE Championship.

“My goal is to shoot for the gold soon after I get Khan out of the way.

“This guy is on six-bout winning streak, and he is young and hungry. He wants what I want — to dominate the division. But one of us has to clear the path for the other.”

If Nastyukhin sounds like a man looking to make up for lost time, that’s because he is. The Russian suffered a broken tibia bout back in November 2016 – an injury TKO loss to former ONE Lightweight Champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR.

“I realised something was wrong when I stepped back and the foot buckled under my weight,” he recalls.

“But I did not want to quit. I decided it was down to the doctors and the judges to stop me.”

Eventually the doctors did, but the damage had already been done, and after undergoing surgery in Singapore, Nastyukhin faced a lengthy process to get back to full fitness again.

“During these months, I questioned if I should go back into the cage,” he admitted.

“But I am not a quitter. The rehab was going well, and I started craving my revenge. I felt like I was so close to the top. I almost got it. In hindsight, that setback only made me more determined.”

He eventually recovered and made his long-awaited return in August 2017 against Koji “The Commander” Ando, who proved a particularly tricky opponent for the returning Russian.

“He was a very inconvenient opponent,” he said.

“He changed stances, he put pressure on, but acted very carefully, and tried wearing me out. He did not attack much. He tried to spot my mistakes, and use them against me.

“Koji made me work hard for the whole three rounds. I was shocked by his strength, and his ability to take punches. My punches have a knockout power, but this guy absorbed them like they were slaps. I could not believe my eyes.

“I did not feel weak or frightened, but I definitely felt unsure if I still belonged in the cage, if I was still the top contender in this game.

“The only way to beat those thoughts was to compete, and to win.”

Now the Russian will get the chance to test his skills against another prolific finisher.

Khan has the most KOs in ONE Championship history, while Nastyukhin has the record for the fastest KO, having stopped Australian Rob Lisita in just six seconds.  The Russian star also has a first-round flying-knee knockout win over former ONE Lightweight Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang on his record.

It’s a clash that will have the fans on the edge of their seats, and one that Nastyukhin has invested heavily in with his training.

He kicked off his training in Ekaterinburg, near the Ural Mountains in Russia, where he sparred with 50 of the country’s best martial artists, before heading to Phuket to complete his preparations at the world renowned Tiger Muay Thai camp in Thailand.

“It was a good chance to try different sparring partners (in Ekaterinburg), and to share an experience,” he said.

“I never focus on grappling or striking. I do absolutely everything: boxing, wrestling, grappling, and functional training.

“This time, I am not training for a regular type of match, I am training for a match with Amir Khan. I study him, because now I need to win more than ever, and I will come prepared.”

Nastuykhin says he’s excited to be back, but he’s also heading into his bout with a steely-eyed determination to reach the lightweight summit.

And he had a final warning for Khan, who he said was a worthy opponent, but one that is in for a shock on 23 February.

“He is a good athlete, but has never had an opponent like me.”

Interview by ONE Championship. Story by Simon Head.

Freelance sports writer and MMA reporter with 19 years’ experience in the UK national media. News Editor: ONE Championship. UFC/MMA Reporter: BBC Three. International MMA Reporter: The Fight Nation. Contributor: MMAjunkie.

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