Interview with RISE Flyweight Champion Riku "GOD LEFT" Kazushima – "Kickboxers Don't Cry"

Apr 14, 2024
Photo: KUSHIMAX / RISE Creations
"There are many strong fighters in the world, from different organizations. I'll defeat them one by one and make my name known."

On February 23rd 2024, RISE Flyweight Champion Riku Kazushima went to bat against Khunsuk PetchyindeeAcademy in a non-title super fight. 

The bout was a back-and-forth struggle with Riku's usual "God Left" hand, which had dropped many fighters before, not quite finding its mark against the taller Thai fighter. The fight went to an extension round after which Riku's hand was raised in victory. After the fight, Riku expressed his dissatisfaction with the result of the fight before reaffirming his commitment on becoming a better fighter deserving of the championship. 

Riku left the crowd with his catchphrase: "Kickboxers don't cry!".

Peter Le and Patrick T. caught up with Riku, and his translator and fellow gym-mate Christina, shortly after his recent super fight to discuss his career in his first interview with western media.

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Riku has been practicing martial arts consistently since the young age of 5, starting in gloved karate, rising to the top of his category in amateur Shootboxing in 6th grade, then winning six championships and tournaments as a kickboxer. 

Riku hitting pads in gloved karate.

Other fighters at Riku's gym inspired him to go make the jump to professional fighting. 

A senior at my gym was fighting professionally, and when I saw that happen in front of me, I thought I wanted to fight on a big stage just like them. That's when I knew I wanted to be a pro kickboxer. It was around the time I was 17.

Kazushima has been at the same gym since childhood, Oikawa Dojo in Osaka, Japan. The kickboxing and karate gym is run by former Shootboxing Super Featherweight champ Tomohiro Oikawa and was the home gym of many Japanese fighters such as RENA and Kodai Hirayama.

Riku as an amateur in his youth.

Apparently Riku used to cry often during training, but after going pro he aimed to change that habit. Since then, “Kickboxers don't cry!” has become his own catchphrase and reminder of that commitment.



Since Kazushima's pro debut in RISE he's fought for the title twice, first losing to current Bantamweight champion Toki Tamaru, then winning the title against Tenshi Matsumoto in 2023.

Kazushima's left straight punch, aka “God Left".

On the road to becoming champion, Riku has stopped 6 pro opponents, many of them with his signature left straight. He calls it his "God Left".

I thought of the nickname myself. I wanted a persona, something catchy, for people to think of when they heard "Riku Kazumshima".

Kazushima feels like he thrives when there's strong opponents in front of him. The fights themselves are the highlight of Riku's professional career.

[My favorite things about being a pro fighter are] being able to take the preparations and training into reality, experiencing the joy of winning and finishing an opponent. Seeing the people who cheer for me get joy from me winning also makes me happy.

Being champion has given Riku more momentum and motivation.

Compared to before I became champion, I have gotten more fans and more support from around me. If there is one big difference, it's that with a title there's more recognition from people and also more motivation to be stronger as the champion.

To Riku, fighting comes naturally. The only hangup is not being able to satisfy his sweet tooth as much as he'd like. Laughing as we asked him if he had any difficulties as a fighter

That has to be the weight cut. I really like chocolate, so not being able to eat that kind of stuff is draining.



Riku has recently gotten more international experience, fighting Thai fighters like the aforementioned Khunsuk and Prandam BRAVELY.

Before Kazushima won the title, he trained at Wor.Aurcaha gym in Bangkok with a fellow RISE participant Petchsila. At Wor.Auracha there are plenty of fighters (Riku is amongst the older active professionals at his gym) and a different style of training when compared to Japanese kickboxing gyms. 

[There is] training you can't really find in Japan. There is a gap between kickboxing and Muay Thai in terms of different skills and rules, so I went there to close that gap and learn more…over here there's a lot of training involving punching, and the tempo is fast which fits for fighting in Japan. On the other hand, in Thailand there's a lot of kicking, kicking technique, and clinching. I think finding that kind of training in Japan would be difficult.

Riku Kazushima training with Petchsila Wor.Auracha.

Kazushima anticipates fighting more Thais in the future. He intends on defending his belt and looking for more challenges in Japan, then the rest of the world. For now, he feels there is plenty left on his plate in the Flyweight division.

While I am champion, there are still a lot of strong guys left in Japan at this weight. I want to prove that Riku Kazushima is the best Flyweight in Japan. Proving that is my number one goal right now. After that, next is to prove that RISE's Riku Kazushima is the best in the world.

Riku has in other interviews hinted that he'd like to avenge his loss to Tamaru, but he would likely have to gain weight first.

Right now my weight cut isn't that bad, so [changing weight classes] would have to be while building my physique, and after there aren't any opponents left at flyweight.

Riku and his team.

The Osaka native has a simple outlook when it comes to future matchups.

Honestly, there's no particular opponent I'd like to fight right now. For now, as long as they're strong and it's a good matchup, it doesn't matter if it's internationally or in Japan, that's what I want to do the most. It's how I can prove how good I am and raise my value as a fighter.

Riku Kazushima left us with these words:

There's a lot of strong fighters in the world, from different organizations. I'll defeat them one by one and make my name known. Please continue supporting me, and watch my fights. Kikkubokusa wa nakanaize! (Kickboxers don't cry!)