Alyse “Lil’ Savage” Anderson is eager to prove that she’s a top contender in ONE Championship’s atomweight division – and she’ll get the opportunity to do just that on Friday, 3 September.
On paper, Hirata presents an incredibly tough matchup for Anderson in the first round of the biggest women’s mixed martial arts tournament in history. “Android 18” is entering their contest with an unblemished 7-0 record and a flawless 100 percent finishing rate.
But “Lil’ Savage,” who’s long been considered one of the best atomweight competitors in North America, is not fazed by her opponent’s run of dominance.
“She’s never fought an all-around fighter like I am,” Anderson says. “I know I’m the best competition she’s had, and I don’t think she’s ever been in a fight with any adversity.”
The 26-year-old American expanded on those thoughts, her impression of Hirata, expectations for their quarterfinal bout, and more in this exclusive interview.
ONE Championship: You’re entering the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix as one of the most recent U.S. signings in ONE. Do you wear that as a badge of honor, or does it add more pressure?
Alyse Anderson: I feel more honored, especially because I’m the only American in the tournament.
I know even people in other promotions don’t get these kinds of opportunities that ONE is giving me. A lot of people still have to work a full-time job and fight, even on a big stage here in America. So to be able to fight, in my opinion, on the biggest stage in the world is great.
It’s a different fan base over there, but I’m honored that ONE gave me the chance to be able to prove myself in their promotion.
ONE: The Grand Prix is stacked from top to bottom. With the stakes so high, how do you view this opportunity as a whole?
AA: It’ll give me a really good feel of where I stand in the division, especially not having any fights under ONE.
ONE does have the biggest atomweight [division] out of all the promotions, so I’m definitely testing myself, but that’s what you have to do. If you want to be the best in the world, go against the best in the world.
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ONE: Your quarterfinal matchup is against Itsuki Hirata, who’s finished every opponent she has faced. How do you break down her strengths and weaknesses?
AA: She definitely has good judo. She’s good at getting people to the ground. I know that’s her background. But as far as her weaknesses, I don’t think she has the experiences I’ve had.
I’ve been fighting a lot longer than her. I don’t even know how long ago she exactly started, but I know she’s only 21. She says she has youth on her side, but I mean, I’m only 26, so I think I have the maturity and experience.
I’m glad I get the opportunity to derail the hype train because a lot of people see her in the finals. I’m not some random American that ONE picked. I’m a top contender, and I deserve to be in this tournament and to be a potential contender for the belt.
ONE: Hirata is very charismatic. She comes out dancing down the ramp and continues it inside of the Circle. Do you view that as showboating? Or does it spur you along and motivate you?
AA: It shows immaturity to me. I roll my eyes at it. I’ve never acted that way. But again, she’s 21 years old. I’ve always taken mixed martial arts seriously since my first fight when I was 18, but to each their own. It doesn’t bother me, but I just roll my eyes. Everyone’s going to do their own thing.
I’ve seen the stuff that ONE’s posted [on social media], like her dancing and doing things in the cage and all that, but I take it seriously. And you know, she might just be having fun with her job, which is cool too. So, it’s a different approach.
But no, it doesn’t make me bite down on my mouthpiece because she does that stuff. I think it’s whatever.
ONE: As you mentioned, grappling is Hirata’s strength. If you find yourself in any adversity in this matchup, how do you plan to handle it?
AA: She hasn’t had adversity in grappling. I don’t think she’s fought any high-level grapplers. In watching her fights, it may look like she’s a world-class grappler, but I don’t think she’s been tested on the ground.
If it does go to the ground, I’ve worked with my team on any situation and how it could go because you never know where the fight is going to go. So, it’s been the repetition of training [that has helped].
Without giving away our game plan and everything, I’m training for whatever happens, and she hasn’t gone against another high-level grappler.
ONE: Ideally, how would you like to win this fight?
AA: I’m taller – I’m the tallest one in the division – so I’ll be able to use my striking. She has a blueprint of what she likes to do, so I’ll shut down her game plan and implement my own. I’ll keep her out of range so she doesn’t get on top and things like that.
ONE: Lastly, why must fans catch the debut of Alyse Anderson?
AA: I’m definitely an aggressive fighter, and I like to put on a lot of pressure.
I’m also someone new to the division, so I think, especially going against someone fans like to see, Itsuki, they should be excited to see her get a real challenge.