UFC 303: Rei Tsuruya Reacts to WWE Star Shinsuke Nakamura Cornering Him

Las Vegas — For those who weren’t aware, Japanese flyweight Rei Tsuruya didn’t just walk out to WWE star Shinsuke Nakamura’s theme song at UFC 303— he had the wrestler in his corner as well.

Tsuruya (10-0) fought to a decision win over Carlos Hernandez at the event at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, his debut in the company after winning his way to the big show on Road to UFC.

Speaking to media outlets including Cageside Press following the bout, Tsuruya spoke about having Nakamura in his corner.

“He definitely supported me a lot the last couple of days. He’s been very, very supportive,” said Tsuruya. “He’s such a superstar, but here for me, I’m just so honored and so thankful.”

In an interview with TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter, Nakamura, a former mixed martial artist himself with a 3-1-1, 1NC record as a pro, revealed that a relationship with Tsuruya’s father led to him cornering at UFC 303. The promotion’s relationship with WWE, with both now under the umbrella of TKO Group, no doubt helped.

As for Tsuruya, following a successful UFC debut, his only source of discontent was being unable to secure the finish.

“I definitely wanted the finish, but at least it’s a decision win. I got the win, and I’m very happy in that,” he stated, adding that he had foreseen Hernandez’s wrestling-heavy approach. “The grappling is something I expected. I definitely wanted to finish in the first round. I tried armlocks, knees, I tried a lot of things but I just couldn’t get that finish.”

At one point, Tsuruya attempted the rarely-seen Twister submission. “It was close, but I got that the opponent was very prepared as well. It was almost there, missed the leg and couldn’t make it.”

Pulling that off would have been impressive, and there’s a chance fans may see him attempt it again. Every so often, it seems Rei Tsuruya works on it in the gym. “It’s not like training just for that, but just naturally I tend to be in that position. So it is something I like doing.”

Watch the full UFC 303 post-fight press conference with Rei Tsuruya above.