After Missing Weight, Itsuki Hirata Bringing ‘Fresh Mindset’ Into Rescheduled Bout With Ham Seo Hee
When you’re a high-profile athlete competing on the global stage of ONE Championship, your performance both inside and outside the Circle can become a public debate.
Itsuki Hirata was the subject of widespread criticism after missing weight for her originally scheduled contest against Ham Seo Hee last November, but she’s determined to make things right in the rescheduled matchup at ONE Fight Night 8 on Prime Video on March 24.
After the November bout was canceled, “Android 18” went dark on social media in an attempt to stay focused on the task at hand.
Now, she’s re-emerged with a hunger to meet expectations for this pivotal atomweight MMA showdown with #2-ranked Ham.
She told ONEFC.com:
“It’s always tough [to be criticized]. I wanted to take a break for about a month, and I wanted to start the new year with a fresh mindset.
“I am full of anxiety [about returning and making the weight], but I believe in myself and see it through.”
To overcome her issues, Hirata doubled down on her preparations in New York, where she’s been cross-training at several elite gyms to make sure she’s ready for “Hamzzang” when they meet at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Doing so meant she left behind her Japanese homeland and put considerable resources into being a full-time athlete – decisions she hopes will pay off in a major way.
The 23-year-old said:
“I’m living in New York and renting a house here, so for now, it’s New York [that is home]. I think New York is the best place for me to train because it offers opportunities in strength and conditioning, movements that are applicable to MMA, and the level of MMA and cage wrestling.
“I feel that compared to America, Japan’s wrestling techniques are not as advanced. Since coming here, I’ve learned more wrestling-centered techniques that I think will be useful in MMA fights.”
Hirata Vows To Meet Ham’s Powerful Striking With ‘Courage’
Itsuki Hirata is prepared for a very tough clash against Ham Seo Hee, a longtime MMA star who’s one of the most experienced and aggressive athletes in ONE’s atomweight division.
After analyzing the South Korean’s game, “Android 18” believes a grappling-heavy game plan will give her the best chance of victory – although she also wants to avoid showing weakness when faced with “Hamzzang’s” fierce striking.
“I’ve been focusing [in training camp] on wrestling and grappling, just like the last time. I think Ham is good at boxing range. When I watched her fight with [Denice] Zamboanga, I felt that her range of wrestling, grappling, and takedown techniques was narrow. I’m good at takedowns and ground fighting, so I hope to take it there, if possible.
“I think despite having a lot of training in striking, I do not have much confidence in my chin or striking. I believe that having the courage to move forward and not back down when I get hit is more important. If I back down, I believe I will receive twice the power of the strike from Ham.”
Another important factor could be Hirata’s ability to push the pace in this 15-minute contest.
After all, her opponent is 13 years older, so “Android 18″ is planning to pressure the veteran for the duration of their battle and make the most of her physical attributes.
“Her weakness is probably her age. I think I have to win with my stamina due to my youth.
“I will fight for five minutes and three rounds, and I’ll keep attacking until the very end no matter what the situation is.”