“The Tank” Qiu Jianliang is ready to make his highly anticipated debut on the global stage, and he already has ONE World Title gold in his sights.
On Friday, 3 December, the Chinese superstar will square off against #3-ranked bantamweight kickboxing contender Hiroki Akimoto at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS, and the winner might just earn the next shot at reigning divisional king Capitan Petchyindee Academy.
Qiu has long been considered the top super featherweight kickboxer on the planet. He owns a 53-7 professional record in the striking arts and will carry an 18-fight winning streak into the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The highly touted star is also moving down to bantamweight, and he’s eager to make an instant impact in his big premiere – but Akimoto will be a tricky puzzle to solve.
The Japanese striker is a former Karate World Champion who blends various techniques from other martial arts into his potent stand-up arsenal. That skill set has led him to a 24-1 professional record – and the lone career blemish came via majority decision.
It may seem like an unenviable first assignment, but Qiu is up to the task. In fact, the 31-year-old believes he can become the first person to knock out Akimoto.
In this exclusive interview, Qiu talks about his expectations for the debut fight, shares his thoughts on Capitan, dishes on a potential move to featherweight, and much more.
ONE Championship: In June, you officially signed with ONE Championship. How excited are you to be a part of the organization?
Qiu Jianliang: Of course I’m excited to join ONE Championship, which I believe is the biggest martial arts organization in the world. It has Muay Thai, MMA, and kickboxing. At the same time, I’m so glad that I can enjoy the fights in ONE Championship, and I can join the fights as well.
ONE: Over the past three years, the ONE Super Series Muay Thai and kickboxing divisions have become so stacked. Who have you been watching lately?
QJ: Recently, I have been watching so many fights in ONE Championship to learn some new skills from those top strikers around the world, like Giorgio Petrosyan, Yodsanklai Fairtex, and Liam Harrison. I feel it’s going to be a very, very nice chance for me to learn something from those top fighters.
ONE: You’re joining ONE on an 18-fight winning streak, and you’ll look to extend that in your debut against #3-ranked bantamweight kickboxing contender Hiroki Akimoto. What are your initial thoughts on him?
QJ: Akimoto, on one hand, is calm, strategic, gentle, and pretty comprehensive inside the ring, but on the other hand, I think he has a huge lack of defending himself toward his upper body. This is just one example. If you really look at his style, there are a lot more weaknesses. I’ve done pretty much enough research on him and his style, so I’ve got my plan for that.
ONE: What do you think is Akimoto’s greatest strength?
QJ: I think the greatest strength of him is that he has a pretty all-around style, which is a bit mediocre to me because you can’t comprehensively develop your weapon inside of the ring.
You have to make one or two of your weapons become your strongest weapon against your opponent. If you are too comprehensive, it will be very dangerous to face a guy who has a sharper and very dangerous weapon.
Bruce Lee once said, “I’m not scared of a guy who knows a thousand kicks, but I’m afraid of the guy who practiced one kick thousands of times.”
ONE: So, what would you say is your biggest strength leading up to this fight?
QJ: I think my mental [game] is my biggest strength. Normally, some people don’t like to regularly train themselves. This is called discipline.
And I’m mentally strong. I have experienced so many difficult times while growing up in different environments. I even worked at a construction site for two years to get some [money] to finish my studies in Thailand. I have experienced a lot of things in Muay Thai in Thailand, too, like so many kids fighting for their food, so I think those experiences gave me power.
ONE: Akimoto is highly ranked and has only lost once in his career. That said, do you think he is on the same level as you?
QJ: I don’t think he is on my level. By that, I mean he has fought against fewer top fighters around the world. For example, he fought Zhang Chenglong twice. [Zhang] is a top fighter from a new generation, but he’s not even the top fighter in China. He is a very good fighter, he grabs knowledge very fast. But he is a fighter from a young generation, so according to that, he is not on my level.
ONE: Will you be hunting for the knockout? Is that the mission?
QJ: Knocking out my opponent as soon as possible inside the ring has always been my mission. Whether it’s Akimoto or Capitan, it’s going to be my mission. There are no polite things because this is a war. You can’t show mercy in a war.
ONE: Speaking of which, there is a lot of chatter that you could be next in line to challenge Capitan for the ONE Bantamweight Kickboxing World Title if you beat Akimoto. How do you think a fight between you and Capitan would go?
QJ: I saw Captain fight, especially his last World Title defense [against Mehdi Zatout]. I said something about the fight – I believe I said it did not look like a title fight. The way Capitan defended his title, it did not look like a title fight. It wasn’t the kind of level I was looking for.
ONE: Why don’t you think it was World Title-worthy?
QJ: Because Capitan has very bad stamina and balance as well. He lost many chances to counter, and his opponent did successfully counterattack [him] as well. I think if the fight went one more round, Capitan would have lost.
ONE: You previously mentioned watching Giorgio Petrosyan and wanting to learn something from him. Would you ever be interested in moving up in weight to fight him or ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Champion Superbon?
QJ: Well, I was trying to increase my weight to fight in their division. I failed because my weight has been decreasing during the last few months. I will reconsider this when I’m more established in ONE Championship. For example, when I get the belt.
For now, I have to fight for my position in ONE Championship, and that’s the only thing on my mind right now. I will only think about that when the moment comes.
ONE: Right on. So, any last words for Akimoto before you meet him in the Circle?
QJ: Welcome to my office. Let’s get the job done.