Having earned four scarf-hold Americana submission victories in just under three years, #4-ranked strawweight contender Ayaka “Zombie” Miura has established herself as the next challenger to divisional queen “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan.
Now, Miura will face the reigning ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion in the main event of ONE: HEAVY HITTERS, which broadcasts live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 14 January.
Interestingly, the match pits the strawweight division’s submission queen against the weight class’ all-time knockout leader, making it a headliner fit for the organization’s first martial arts spectacle of 2022.
However, before the third-degree judo black belt steps into the Circle for the biggest fight of her career, she recaps her journey through mixed martial arts – a journey guided by her coach and legend of the Japanese MMA scene, Ryo “Piranha” Chonan.
At the peak of his career, Chonan was a Japanese Mixed Martial Arts Champion who competed in the biggest promotions all over the world. He even won accolades from top media outlets like Sports Illustrated.
Chonan built his career by being a disciplined martial artist, and it’s a trait that he’s passed on to Miura.
“Discipline is important for focusing on all the individual aspects of training,” she says.
Indeed, it was discipline that successfully guided “Zombie” through her high school judo club, it was discipline that earned her the respect of established athletes at Tribe Tokyo MMA, and it was discipline that made her such a feared grappler.
But sometimes, discipline wavers, as was the case for Miura on 28 May 2017.
On that day, she was scheduled to face Brazilian Thiane Sauza in Pancrase but failed to make weight. As the media watched – and as her opponent came in spot on – “Zombie” found herself under the spotlight and in an awkward position.
“I just wanted to disappear,” she admits. “But the day after the fight, I went with Mr. Chonan and Yuya Wakamatsu to our late team member [Iyori] Akiba’s grave.”
At Akiba’s eternal resting place, she realized that by not giving 100 percent, she let down her former teammate who had passed away in a traffic accident and could no longer follow his dreams.
“I knew I couldn’t show myself like this to [Akiba]. So, from then on, I decided to raise more fighting spirit in me. Things changed from there,” she says.
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Following the visit, the Japanese star felt the urgency and experienced a shift in performance while under the watchful eye of Chonan. In fact, she won three of her next four outings in Pancrase.
Then, in February 2019, Miura dominated in her ONE Championship debut.
Miura went on to use the technique to score two more second-round submission victories – first, against another former ONE World Title challenger in Samara “Marituba” Santos and then against a formerly ranked contender in Maira Mazar.
Now, within weeks of her biggest mixed martial arts challenge, “Zombie” continues to praise Chonan, the man who she believes is responsible for her success not only in Japan, but outside of her home country as well.
“There’s no way I could compete abroad without him. He’s strict, but he supports me in many aspects. I’m very thankful to him,” Miura says.
“As a coach, he gives us solid support through all the tough times. Because he actually knows the harshness [of the sport], he has to be strict with us. And because of that, it gives us discipline and willpower.”
Indeed, Chonan is known for his unwavering sternness in the gym. But he’s equally known for his fairness and kindness to those around him. That’s the kind of coach it takes to build a World Champion.
It’ll be up to Miura to do the rest come 14 January.