Ayaka “Zombie” Miura confirmed her status as one of the most potent specialists in all of martial arts when she defeated Rayane Bastos with her signature scarf-hold Americana at ONE: DANGAL last month.
The bounce-back win also solidified the Japanese star as one of the top contenders in the women’s strawweight mixed martial arts division.
Though the finish was a familiar one — Miura’s fourth with a scarf-hold Americana in four ONE victories — it was clear that she had also improved her all-around game.
In this exclusive interview, “Zombie” reflects on that performance in Singapore, the steps she took to get there, and her desire to fight for World Championship gold in the near future.
ONE Championship: You submitted Rayane Bastos at ONE: DANGAL in May. It was your first match since you suffered a TKO loss against Tiffany “No Chill” Teo at ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE. What did you work on between those fights?
Ayaka Miura: To fix the cause of the loss, I continued training to improve the physical and other aspects [of my game].
I fought the same way as Teo, even though I have a shorter reach than her. So, I tried to improve my techniques to close the distance and improve my takedowns.
Looking back now, I think it was an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate my game from scratch. Losing motivates me to improve, and although it was a difficult time, I think I was able to improve in many ways.
ONE: Against Bastos, you won by submission in the first round. Did you see the results of your training?
AM: My trainer told me that it’s difficult to tell from such a quick bout, but that I improved my detailed movements.
He told me that I improved at closing the distance, combination movements, attacking, the position of my head, and moving off-tempo from my opponent’s movements without rushing in.
As for myself, I had been practicing more things and adding more techniques besides the [scarf-hold Americana], but I ended up winning with that one after all.
ONE: How did you feel going into the match?
AM: I’m the type of person who doesn’t get nervous all the time, but I was anxious for this bout because I had to work hard after losing my previous match.
Also, my opponent was big. I was nervous because even though I ate a lot, I was underweight, so I wondered how big my opponent would be.
When I arrived at the venue on the day of the bout at 56 kilograms, I was telling my trainer that there was probably a difference of about 4 kilograms with my opponent. [Coach] Chonan-san told me, “She is big, but not muscularly big so you will be fine.” But I was still scared.
ONE: After the match was over, you shouted, “Don’t make light of me!” Can you elaborate?
AM: I was hyped up when the announcement to enter the Circle was made at the venue. When they called my opponent, she entered and performed as if she was saying, “It’s totally fine.” When I saw that, I thought, “I am going to beat her!”
Also, I saw that my opponent had posted a picture of herself and her boyfriend on Instagram. When I saw that, I thought, “I’ve been just focusing on competing for the past year.”
I’m over 30 years old, I lost last year, and I’ve been practicing. I gave that bout my all.
ONE: How did you feel after the match?
AM: I was so relieved that I was in tears, but Chonan-san told me not to cry because it was natural to win, so I held back my tears.
- Bhullar Reflects On ‘Life-Changing’ World Title Win Over Vera
- Mangat: Victory Over Mainam, Support From India ‘Refreshed My Fire’
- Mahmoudi Vs. Mongkolpetch To Headline ONE: FULL BLAST II
ONE: Coach Chonan is known for his strictness.
AM: He’s strict, but his strictness comes from his kindness.
He is strict when it comes to martial arts practice, but other than that, he does a lot to make me win. It’s not like he’s harassing me. On the contrary, I appreciate him for being strict.
When I leave for bouts, he always drives me to the venues and back and supports me in every way. For the last bout, he drove me to the airport and took me home.
He thinks about the fighters a lot. He observes us, and each athlete’s padwork is different. There are pads for each fighter’s style and opponent, and he changes those according to the upcoming bout.
ONE: You were talking about moving down from strawweight to atomweight?
AM: I could go either way with my weight – strawweight or atomweight – so since the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix was planned, I thought I’d go to atomweight if I could get in. And I was training to be able to go either way.
But that didn’t happen, and I think that I can maintain my weight at strawweight. So I think my top priority is to win the belt at strawweight.
ONE: Is there anyone specific you would like to fight?
AM: I would have to say Xiong Jing Nan. All the opponents I’ve fought have participated in World Title matches, and I’m the only one who hasn’t, so I’d like to do it.
I think Xiong is a very strong opponent, but I don’t know until I grapple with her. Everyone has been hit by her strikes from close range. Her boxing is quick, so everyone gets hit and beaten. That means I would need to find a way to get past that.
I’d like to see how well she can use her newaza (ground techniques) in her next fight against [BJJ World Champion Michelle] Nicolini. I think I would have a good matchup with Jing Nan.
ONE: What are you looking forward to in the bout between Xiong and Nicolini?
AM: I think it’s all up to how Jing Nan keeps the distance from her opponent and how she hits. But I think it will be a clash between striking and grappling since Nicolini is a specialist in newaza.
ONE: Do you have a message for your fans?
AM: Thank you for your support. I don’t know when I’ll be able to fight next, but I’m training as hard as I can for it, so please root for me.
Read more: 5 Major Takeaways From ONE: DANGAL