Hideki Sekine is on a quest to become the first Japanese heavyweight champion in a major mixed martial arts promotion.
The undefeated warrior known as “Shrek” will officially make his ONE Championship debut on Friday Night, 2 December, when he challenges Brandon “The Truth” Vera for his ONE Heavyweight World Championship.
The titanic clash will take place at ONE: AGE OF DOMINATION, which broadcasts live from the champ’s home turf at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
A seven-time BJJ champion, the physically imposing “Shrek” has compiled a perfect 7-0 record with three victories coming by TKO and the other three by submission. He wiped out DEEP’s megaton division in Japan with relative ease, even wearing a mask for a pair of matches. He experienced a dilemma, however, as Japanese organizations struggled to pair him up with similar-sized juggernauts.
Now, he has a golden opportunity to square off against a world-famous title holder and face other elite heavyweights in ONE Championship.
“In Japan’s lighter divisions, there are many strong fighters. But in the heavier divisions, there are not many. It is probably because Japanese are originally built small and few heavyweight fighters exist,” the 43-year-old Shizuoka, Japan, native explains.
“Japanese are naturally thin, so it is difficult to build muscle and many cannot compete in the heavyweight class. If you look at me, I have a sturdy build and have thick bones, so I can gain muscle and compete with top fighters from all around the world.
“There has never been a Japanese heavyweight champion in boxing or MMA, so if I become the first champion, it means my name is going down in history. If I can defeat Brandon Vera and bring home the belt, it will be an honor for the Japanese fans, my gym, and myself.”
However, that will be an extremely difficult undertaking.
Vera, who made his professional MMA debut in 2002, is one of the few well-rounded heavyweight mixed martial artists on the planet. Aside from his strong freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling background, he has a knack for knocking people out and doing it quickly.
Just watch his last bout with ex-contender Paul Cheng, where he disposed of Cheng in just 26 seconds with a left hook, head kick, and hammer fists. “The Truth” holds a 14-7 record, and nine of those victories have come by way of knockout.
Sekine is well aware of the Filipino-American’s abilities, as well as surrendering a 25cm height difference, sizable reach advantage, and four-year age gap. The hulking Japanese plans to counter his opponent’s striking attack by utilizing his own personal strengths.
“Brandon is younger and taller than me, and has good kickboxing. He also has way more experience than me in MMA,” says Sekine, frankly. “His strengths are the long reach of both his punches and kicks, and his strong heart.
“When I face him, I must be careful of his long reach, which cannot be seen in Japan. I must keep my distance and fight within my vital areas.”
The Japanese heavyweight’s vital areas are undoubtedly on the ground, where he holds black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo. However, aside from his submission wizardry, he has some heavy hands that could rock Vera and quite possibly put him away.
Although it remains a possibility, Sekine has already mapped out the most ideal scenario.
“There is no way I can end the fight without getting any punches from him, so I would like to keep my damage as minimal as possible, go to the ground, and submit him. This is the minimum requirement for me to win the fight,” says Sekine.
Fighting for a world championship is a far cry from Sekine’s previous life. He was a dedicated police officer for years, and has handled several difficult cases in his career. Though he was proud to wear the badge, it was a demanding and stressful profession.
When he discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Bonsai Jiu-Jitsu, that anxiety fell by the wayside. Eventually, it led him to both a career change and achieving inner happiness. He professes that it changed his life completely.
Aside from gaining new friendships and exploring the globe taking part in BJJ tournaments, he was a massive fan of regional Japanese promotions, and that kickstarted a new path.
“The reason why I started MMA is because my jiujitsu friends were fighting in the ring,” he explains. “It was always my interest since I was following promotions such as DREAM, and my dream was to compete in the ring one day.”
Now his dream can actually turn into reality, and Sekine actually quit his job in the police force to focus full time on becoming a world champion. But beyond the accolades and historical moments he can create by defeating Vera in Manila to become the first Japanese heavyweight champion in a major MMA promotion, “Shrek” has a legitimate chance to validate to himself that he made the correct choice to follow his heart.
“If I become the champion,” he says, “it means my decision to quit my job as a cop and dedicating everything to MMA has succeeded, and I can prove to my family and friends that my decision was right.”