Hayato Suzuki (17-1-2) has had trouble sleeping.
Ever since he experienced the first loss of his professional career two months ago, the 20-bout veteran has been haunted by the memory of defeat.
“I could not get over it for a while,” the 31-year-old admits. “Whatever I did, that defeat followed me around. I even had nightmares.”
Losing is something very new for the Tokyo, Japan resident. Suzuki, who made his professional debut in October 2012, dominated the Japanese martial arts scene for years, even capturing the Grachan Flyweight Championship.
When he joined ONE Championship in August 2017, he made his commanding presence felt instantly. In his promotional debut at ONE: KINGS & CONQUERORS, he took Joshua Pacio down almost instantly and submitted him with an airtight rear-naked choke just minutes into the contest.
Unfortunately, when he met BJJ World Champion Alex “Little Rock” Silva three months later at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD, Suzuki’s elite grappling background served to be his undoing.
After Suzuki successfully shot for a takedown, Silva used a high guard to flip the Japanese wrestler into the air, rolled into an armbar, and forced him to tap out. The contest was the Tokyo athlete’s 20th professional bout, but in a mere 82 seconds, he committed a fatal error that caused the lone blemish on what was otherwise a perfect record.
“I could not take the risk and execute the team’s strategy, which is very important in martial arts,” Suzuki explains.
“I thought about the future — the belt — too much, and I was not focused enough, and lacked the strong feeling that I was going to win the bout that was in front of me.”
“I learned the strictness of the ‘win or lose’ game. Things do not go as you imagine, and one mistake ruins everything.”
Suzuki’s lack of sleep led him straight back to Brave Gym, where he showed a renewed vigor under his coach and hero, Kazuyuki Miyata.
Now, with a renewed dedication to his training, the Tokyo-based strawweight is ready to end the nightmares for good and return to dominance. He will clash with former ONE Strawweight World Title challenger Yago “Codorninha” Bryan at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES, live from the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines on Friday, 26 January.
The 25-year-old Rio de Janeiro, Brazil native is a Muay Thai practitioner and respected wrestler, who trains out of the famed Nova Uniāo camp. Besides being a Shooto South American Strawweight Champion, Bryan also owns an undefeated 9-0 in Muay Thai.
Despite the all-round threat “Codorninha” poses, Suzuki believes his impeccable wrestling talent is much sharper. He also believes he will be the more effective striker.
“I have an advantage in takedowns and on the ground. Also, if I mix my takedown techniques with my striking, I can have a bigger advantage over him,” the Tokyo-based strawweight states.
Suzuki’s mindset is in the right place. He is steadfast in his belief to win, and that confidence and undying optimism is crucial for him if he wants to achieve his career goal of claiming world titles in two divisions.
Except now, his ultimate goal includes one more condition.
Following the loss, Silva went on to challenge ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito for the belt in December 2017. He leaned on his improved striking to defeat the champion via unanimous decision and captured the belt — a belt that could have been Suzuki’s.
Now, only two months removed from defeat, Suzuki still thinks he can beat “Little Rock,” and that is why the match with Bryan at ONE: GLOBAL SUPERHEROES is so important. For him, it is the first step towards redemption.
“I want to win against Bryan, and then I want to challenge Alex Silva again. Winning makes my life worth living,” Suzuki explains.
“I lost against Alex, but I still believe that I have the biggest chance to defeat him among the rest of the athletes on the strawweight roster. He is my obstacle, and I am gonna challenge him and win.”