Naoki tanaka: I want to knock that "professor" of his throne

Naoki Tanaka speaks to Warrior Code ahead of his Rise title defence
Written by Guido de Boer
Published on Apr 19, 2023, 9:36:20 AM
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Naoki Tanaka, aka the Joker, is a household name in the featherweight category at Rise Japan. Whilst he has been a dominant force in Japan, fights against his international competitors didn’t quite go his way. Naoki is currently looking to restore order in his career after he has gone without a win in his last three fights. But, to give credit where credit is due, he seems undeterred by the recent disappointing results and knows what he is working towards: "making my name on the international stage and knocking that 'Professor' off his throne".

Naoki is two days out from defending his Rise featherweight title against Kan Nakamura, a fighter who himself is looking for his first real breakthrough in the division. Ahead of his fight, Warrior Code had the opportunity to catch up with Naoki to get his thoughts on the upcoming title defence and his plans thereafter. 

You’re only a couple of days out from your fight. How do you feel about it and how do you look back at your training camp?

“I know Nakamura well, he is an aggressive fighter and I know I need to be on top of my game to get the win. But, I have every bit of confidence that it will be my hands holding the belt above my felt at the end of the evening. Training camp has gone well, I feel good and look forward to stepping into the ring.”

Naoki with his championship belt

For those who do not know you, can you tell us a little bit about your eye-catching nickname: the joker. When did you adopt this name?

“I tend to smile a lot yet also hurt people in my weight category. Someone at Rise picked up on this slightly dark side of me and said I reminded him of this character from Batman. My face is always smiling but at the time of the fight, I turn into a devil. I want to be seen as this crazy fighter.”

You’re going into this fight with three straight losses behind you. How would you rate your confidence at the moment?

“I have analysed the last three fights carefully and know when and where I dropped the ball. As mentioned, Nakamura is an aggressive fighter and therefore the perfect opponent against whom I can show the world that Naoki is still here dominating the division at Rise.

Let’s assume you win on Friday, when do we see you back in Europe?

“I hope as soon as possible. Like so many others, my ambition is to knock “Petch'' off his throne and claim the Glory belt alongside my Rise title. I know that this fight will not happen next week but you need to aim high and encourage the lion to come out of his cave and show himself.”

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