Rika Ishige Has A Plan To Counter Itsuki Hirata’s Top-Class Judo

Rika “Tiny Doll” Ishige’s bout at ONE: CENTURY PART I will be a huge moment in her career, and not just because it will take place at the biggest event in martial arts history.

The Thai star believes she has never faced a tougher opponent than Itsuki “Strong Heart Fighter” Hirata, and to make the task tougher, the 30-year-old will compete in her opponent’s hometown.

However, despite the odds against her, the Bangkok Fight Lab and Tiger Muay Thai representative believes she can emerge from this women’s atomweight contest on 13 October in Tokyo, Japan with the most impressive victory of her career.

Hirata won her ONE debut with a highlight-reel submission of Angelie “D Explorer” Sabanal in June, which added to her perfect record in the amateur ranks that saw her finish all of her bouts.

The K-Clann representative is an experienced grappler, so may be able to neutralize Ishige on the ground, where she is usually at her best.

“My opponent is really strong in judo, and I expect her to be very strong. Also, she is younger than me, and has never lost in her pro career,” she explains.

“I can say it’s going to be the toughest bout in my career.”

However, this is exactly the sort of situation in which the Thai superstar thrives.

Some of her biggest wins have come when her back is against the wall, and she feels more prepared than ever for this assignment.

Though she has not competed since February, she has put her time on the sidelines to good use, and she expects to be sharper than ever in the Circle at the Ryogoku Kokugikan.

“I definitely feel more pressure. I believe that when I perform under pressure, it makes me mentally stronger, but I don’t let it influence me too much,” she says.

“I haven’t competed for a while because I wanted to improve my skills – both physical and mental. Now I’m ready to show how far I have come since my previous bouts.”

She also has a strategy to counter Hirata’s most dangerous weapons, which is likely to involve stand-up skills that have been honed by working with some of the world’s best strikers in the birthplace of Muay Thai.

“Her striking is not that solid compared to my last opponents, so I am working really hard on my striking. [I have also trained] takedown defense because I know my opponent good at judo and submissions,” she adds.

“Of course, I have a plan, but if I tell, then my opponent will know my plan as well. I will just be strict in what I train, and I will do my very best.”

“Tiny Doll” also believes she may have the advantage when it comes to heart and determination when she faces “Strong Heart Fighter” next month.

Hirata has barely had to face any adversity while she has cruised to her quick victories, but if she thinks she will get another easy win, Ishige believes she is mistaken.

The Thai mixed martial arts pioneer has had to grit her way through adversity to emerge with some of her best wins, and she will leave everything in the Circle in search of success.

“I think she has so much, maybe too much confidence because she has never lost in her pro career, so it is going to make her underestimate me,” she says.

This assignment is also important to Ishige because she is half-Japanese, and it will be her first chance to compete in the nation’s capital – the place she called home as a child, and where her mother still lives.

“Tiny Doll” is sure to make a lot of fans thanks to her natural charisma and entertaining cosplay walkouts, but she is determined to win new fans by showcasing her new and improved martial arts skills, too.

“It’s my honor to be a part of ONE: CENTURY because it such a mega event! I have a chance to compete in my second hometown, and also compete on the same card as the world’s greatest athletes,” she says.

“I just want to say thank you very much to everyone that supports me, whether I win or lose. Don’t forget to watch my bout on 13 October in Tokyo. I will do my best, and I will make sure not to disappoint you guys!”

Read more: Demetrious Johnson Grateful To The ONE World Champ Who Inspired Him

ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization 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.

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