Timofey Nastyukhin returns to action at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD looking to put his injury nightmare firmly behind him.
The Russian contender was looking to position himself for a shot at the ONE Featherweight World Title, but disaster struck during his bout against former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu “No Face” Boku at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in November 2016.
During that bout, a low kick resulted in the Russian sustaining a broken shin, as he lost the match and spent nine months on the shelf as he looked to rehab his injury.
The injury came when Nastyukhin threw a low kick to Boku’s front leg, but it was the Russian who came off worse, breaking his shin and falling to the ground. Somehow, he mustered up remarkable levels of pain resistance and determination to make it to the end of the round, when the bout was stopped on the advice of the cageside physician.
At the time, Nastyukhin was unaware that his leg was actually broken, as he recalls the events of that night.
“That fateful night nearly cost me my career,” he admitted.
“They carried me out of the building on a stretcher, and brought me to the hospital where I heard the diagnosis — a broken tibia. Many people admired my perseverance in that match, and they cannot believe I finished the round.
“Right after the match, I had all sort of negative thoughts and doubts. The doctors at the Singapore hospital did a fantastic job, and the surgery went well.”
Nastyukhin’s surgery saw him have a metal plate placed into his leg, and he started plotting his return to the ONE Championship cage.
He eventually decided his future would be in the ONE lightweight division, so he moved up a weight class and set himself the goal of becoming the ONE Lightweight World Champion.
“I made a plan in my head and I am still following it. There is no turning back.”
That plan included going back to Russia and visiting a rehabilitation center in Belokurikha, near his home in Novokuznetsk. For the next four months, he underwent physical therapy, endured painful massages, and had to do special exercises with light weights and rubber bands.
He returned to Russia and spent four months at a rehabilitation centre in Belokurikha, where a punishing regimen of exercises and leg manipulation helped prepare his body for a return to the cage.
“It is an expensive facility, by Russian standards, but the doctors are very knowledgeable and they provide good care, too,” he said.
“ONE Championship took care of my rehabilitation financially, which was a huge relief. It is good to be a part of an organisation where you are not left behind in difficult situations.
“ONE was very supportive of me during this difficult time. I would like to thank Victor Cui, CEO International of ONE Championship, who took time to personally get in touch and offer his help.
“Massive thanks to all the officials who came to visit me in the hospital, and the lovely note in Russian that they left me – they probably had to use Google translate!
“I found it very touching. My fans were amazing, sending messages on Instagram and Facebook, too.”
He started out having to use crutches, then downgraded to a walking stick. Soon, he was able to walk freely and eventually resume training. It was a slow process, but Nastyukhin persevered as he worked tirelessly on rebuilding himself ahead of a return to ONE Championship.
He made his return in August 2017 at ONE: KINGS AND CONQUERORS, where he scored a unanimous decision victory over former ONE Lightweight World Title challenger Koji Ando. It was just reward for the work he’d put in, and proved that he was able to compete against the very best once again.
“I do not need to look for motivation to continue working towards my dreams of winning ONE Championship gold,” he stated.
“Martial arts has been my life since I was a kid, now it is also my profession. Motivated or not, an accountant or a bus driver goes to work. I am no different.”
Nastyukhin’s next challenge sees him take on fellow lightweight contender Amir Khan at ONE: QUEST FOR GOLD on Friday, 23 February in Yangon, Myanmar.
It’s a bout that many believe could determine the next number-one contender for the ONE Lightweight Title, and pits Nastyukhin, the man with the fastest KO in ONE history (six seconds) against Khan, the man with the most knockouts in ONE history at seven.
Victory for Nastykhin would move him one big step closer to his dream of becoming a world champion. He’s already refused to allow injury to stop his progress. Now he’s determined to make sure Khan fares no better.