Itsuki Hirata aims to knockout Rika Ishige in the first-round

Itsuki “Strong Heart Fighter” Hirata is looking forward to performing back home at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan for ONE: CENTURY PART I on October 13.

Hirata will get to showcase her skills in front of her home crowd against Rika “Tiny Doll” Ishige

The 20-year-old Japanese was successful in her ONE Championship debut at ONE: LEGENDARY QUEST, making Angelie Sabanal tap within three minutes of the first round. Though she planned to take down the Filipina in a striking match, she saw an opportunity to lock in an Americana and secured the only submission victory of the night.

“I wasn’t nervous at all – I really enjoyed it. I’ve always enjoyed the competition and I never really get nervous. I’m always looking forward to the next one,” Hirata said.

“Angelie Sabanal has a Muay Thai base and specializes in striking. I thought about striking with her, but I caught her foot and got the takedown, so I was okay with that. The timing was good, and I wanted to show my ground and pound, but her arm was there, so I went for it. 

“I took an inside low kick, which gave me bad bruising after the fight, but I knew that even if I got hit, I couldn’t back off, so I kept aware of pressing forward. Right after the fight, I started training and preparing for this next one.”

Ishige is known for taking her opponents to the mat quickly where she is able to dish out her ground-and-pound or score or a submission. For Hirata to neutralize her Thai opponent, she spent additional hours in the gym continuously improving her skills. The “Strong Heart Fighter” wants to be prepared in taking the match either in stand-up or on the mat.

“I’ve been weight training three times a week to get bigger, and doing conditioning,” Hirata said. “And, as usual, I’ve been working on my striking and ground game. [She] is a good grappler, so I’ve been training for constant scrambles on the ground.”

Hirata is undefeated in her first four professional matches, finishing her opponents with various submissions. The Japanese aims to showcase her much improved striking in Tokyo and confidently declared that she would knockout Ishige in the first round.

“I want to show my striking. I’ve been focusing on that, and ground and pound. Before my last match, I said the same thing, but in the end, it went to the ground, so this time my main aim is striking,” said Hirata.

“Watching her matches, there’s a lot of ground game. This will probably be my first opponent with good grappling, so I’ve been training, and I’m ready for that. If I see a submission opportunity, I’ll go for it, but I’m going there to strike. 

“[Ishige] already has a big name in Asia, but I’ve been training and improving, and I think this is mine. I can’t let her come to me, I have to push forward, put her against the cage, and wrap it up with strikes. It would be great if I could also show my ground and pound,” she concluded.

“This time I want everyone to see me finish by KO in the first round. I’m bringing in a new era!”

Author: Paulo Errazo

Paulo Errazo has been an avid combat sports fan who covers MMA, Kickboxing, and Muay Thai. He loves to put into words the thoughts and stories of athletes and bring out their emotions in every article. Aside from combat sports, Paulo also frequently plays football/soccer.

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