Nastyukhin bounced back from a loss to Herbert Burns, his first loss under the ONE Championship banner, with a six-second destruction of Rob Lisita in May 2016.
Just six months later, Nastyukhin was looking to continue his momentum with a victory over former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu Boku at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in Singapore, but things took a turn for the worse for the Russian Top Team product.
After firing off a low kick that landed on Boku’s front leg, Nastyukhin’s right shin snapped.
While he was able to power through the injury and finish the first round, it was clear that Nastyukhin would not be able to continue, giving Boku the technical knockout victory.
Aside from the loss, Nastyukhin left the Singapore Indoor Stadium on that November night with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over him and his mixed martial arts career.
“That fateful night nearly cost me my career,” Nastyukhin shared on ONE Championship’s official website. “They carried me out of the building on a stretcher, and brought me to the hospital where I heard the diagnosis — a broken tibia.”
Knowing the extent of the injury made it even more impressive that Nastyukhin managed to get through the opening round.
“Many people admired my perseverance in that match, and they cannot believe I finished the round,” he remembered.
Aside from the physical toils of an injury, Nastyukhin also had to deal with the mental anguish that comes with it.
“The belt has always been my goal. I am not here to just make up numbers on the roster,” he stated. “But right after the match, I had all sort of negative thoughts and doubts.”
The required surgery to repair the broken shin entailed having a metal plate inserted in his leg.
“The doctors at the Singapore hospital did a fantastic job, and the surgery went well,” he mentioned.
After the operation, Nastyukhin went back home to Russia to rehabilitate his newly-repaired leg and get him on the road to recovery.
“It is an expensive facility, by Russian standards,” he said, describing the rehabilitation center in Belokhurika. “But the doctors are very knowledgeable and they provide good care, too.”
Nastyukhin bared that he is grateful for the support that ONE Championship showed throughout the ordeal.
“ONE Championship took care of my rehabilitation financially, which was a huge relief. It is good to be a part of an organization where you are not left behind in difficult situations,” he expressed. “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,” he quipped.
Less than a year removed from the injury, Nastyukhin made a triumphant return to the ONE Championship cage, defeating Koji Ando in August 2017.
Nastyukhin kicked off 2018 with another strong showing, turning back top contender Amir Khan via unanimous decision to earn back-to-back victories.
At ONE: CONQUEST OF HEROES on 22 September at the Jakarta Convention Center in Indonesia, Nastyukhin goes head-to-head against Turkish wrecking ball Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev.
A win for Nastyukhin will mark his third-straight victory since coming back from what could have been a career-ending injury.
More importantly, having his hand raised against Arslanaliev. puts him in title picture.
With a surgically-repaired leg and a renewed hunger for the ONE Lightweight World Championship, Nastyukhin is out to prove why he is considered as one of the top contenders in the promotion’s talent-filled 77.1-kilogram division.
“I do not need to look for motivation to continue working towards my dreams of winning ONE Championship gold. Martial arts has been my life since I was a kid, now it is also my profession,” he exclaimed. “Motivated or not, an accountant or a bus driver goes to work. I am no different.”