On Sunday, 13 October, in the first part of the biggest event in martial arts history, the undefeated Japanese athlete will represent her nation in her hometown of Tokyo in a women’s atomweight battle with Rika “Tiny Doll” Ishige.
The 20-year-old is relaxed and certain she can confirm her status as one of the brightest young stars on the global stage by continuing the form she showed in her ONE Championship debut in June.
At ONE: LEGENDARY QUEST, she performed with the composure of a veteran and took less than three minutes to take Angelie “D Explorer” Sabanal to the mat and submit her with an Americana.
“I wasn’t nervous at all – I really enjoyed it. I’ve always enjoyed competition and I never really get nervous. I’m always looking forward to the next one,” she says excitedly.
“Angelie Sabanal has a Muay Thai base and specializes in striking. I thought about striking with her, but I caught her foot and got the takedown, so I was okay with that.
“The timing was good, and I wanted to show my ground and pound, but her arm was there, so I went for it. I took an inside low kick, which gave me bad bruising after the fight, but I knew that even if I got hit, I couldn’t back off, so I kept aware of pressing forward.
“Right after the fight, I started training and preparing for this next one.”
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The opponent for her sophomore appearance inside the Circle has far more professional experience, and like the K-Clann judoka, Ishige does her best work on the ground.
To prepare for the challenge of “Tiny Doll” on the biggest stage of her life and ensure her physical strength matches that of her heart, Hirata has dedicated extra time in the gym to increase her power.
“I’ve been weight training three times a week to get bigger, and doing conditioning,” she says.
“And, as usual, I’ve been working on my striking and ground game. [She] is a good grappler, so I’ve been training for constant scrambles on the ground.”
As a mixed martial arts athlete in the amateur and professional ranks, “Strong Heart Fighter” has finished each of her opponents by submission, but she is eager to show another facet of her ever-evolving skillset at ONE: CENTURY PART I.
Whether she does it on the ground or in a toe-to-toe exchange, she is aiming for the knockout
“I want to show my striking. I’ve been focusing on that, and ground and pound. Before my last match, I said the same thing, but in the end, it went to the ground, so this time my main aim is striking,” Hirata explains.
“Watching her matches, there’s a lot of ground game. This will probably be my first opponent with good grappling, so I’ve been training, and I’m ready for that. If I see a submission opportunity, I’ll go for it, but I’m going there to strike.
“[Ishige] already has a big name in Asia, but I’ve been training and improving, and I think this is mine. I can’t let her come to me, I have to push forward, put her against the cage, and wrap it up with strikes. It would be great if I could also show my ground and pound.”
“This time I want everyone to see me finish by KO in the first round. I’m bringing in a new era!”
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization in history has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.