Itsuki “Android 18” Hirata hopes to use her position as a rising combat sports star to inspire the next generation of female martial artists.
The undefeated Japanese fighter has established herself as both a fan favorite and top contender, with three straight wins in ONE Championship, and she can reach even greater heights when she faces Alyse “Lil’ Savage” Anderson at the historic ONE: EMPOWER on Friday, 3 September.
“Android 18” will battle the American in the quarterfinal round of the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix – the first all-female tournament on the global stage — and she hopes this is just the start of a bigger movement.
“I personally believe that the tendency of men being the main events will change. I would like to see more women-only events in Asia and around the world,” Hirata says.
“I think even male athletes look at female athletes’ bouts and might think we are amazing, so that is what I would like to achieve.”
ONE has consistently led the way in showcasing its female stars, with some of the promotion’s biggest events being headlined by those leading ladies. And promoting a card solely on their strength is a first that Hirata welcomes.
“I’m really excited and looking forward to it. We live and fight regardless of gender. So, in that respect, I don’t think we have huge differences [from the men],” the 21-year-old offers.
When it comes to finding inspiration, “Android 18” could certainly look toward the many martial artists who helped pave the way for a momentous event like ONE: EMPOWER. But the K-Clann representative has taken her own motivation from closer to home.
“The person I look up to the most is my mother,” she says. “I think she is the strongest human being, regardless of whether she fights or not. I think every family is like that.”
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It is now Hirata’s turn to be a flag-bearer and use her platform to embolden a generation of girls who might see her on the global stage and hope to emulate her dominant performances.
Along the way, she’s felt the stigma of being a young female in a male-dominated martial arts world, but she’s also learned that it’s not an immovable barrier if you work hard enough.
“I’ve been doing judo since I was a little girl, and when I was in elementary school, matches were set up regardless of gender,” the Japanese athlete says.
“There was the perception that boys were stronger than girls, or girls are underestimated. However, I want the children to do their best. Girls are strong, after all. I hope I can give them power through my bouts.”
Ultimately, the 7-0 Hirata is aiming to win the Grand Prix and earn a shot at reigning ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee.
From there, she could become the first woman from her nation to win gold in ONE Championship. It would be a historic achievement in the martial arts world, but “Android 18” knows that others have laid the groundwork for her success.
With that in mind, she gives credit to her compatriots who’ve allowed her to chase big dreams – and she hopes to inspire others who come after her.
“If I become the first Japanese woman to win a belt, it won’t be through my own power alone,” Hirata says.
“I would like to thank everyone in Japan and create an environment where girls can grow up like me.”