‘This Is Just The Starting Line’ – Itsuki Hirata Vows To Keep Evolving After Crucial Win
Itsuki Hirata rebounded from her first career MMA defeat with a rousing victory over Lin Heqin on Friday, August 26.
The Japanese fan favorite overcame the sharp kickboxing of her Chinese rival on the lead card of ONE on Prime Video 1: Moraes vs. Johnson II and left the Singapore Indoor Stadium with an impressive unanimous decision.
Although Lin had success on the feet, Hirata’s focus on striking during her recent training trip to the U.S. paid dividends when she dropped her foe with an overhand right in the final 30 seconds to cement the victory.
She was certainly thrilled with the performance, but she also thinks there is plenty more room for improvement.
Hirata told ONE Championship:
“Winning the fight is amazing. Fantastic. Every time, after I win, it is my [best victory]. So this is number one.
“I wanted to showcase my striking because I trained a lot in the States. I spent a lot of time in New York City – almost four weeks – and I trained hard, especially in striking. This is just the starting line. But I’m sure I can be stronger. That’s what I feel right now.”
While Lin’s stand-up game and takedown defense helped her control stretches of the fight, the most crucial moments all went in Hirata’s direction.
The Japanese sensation finished the second round with a close kimura attempt, and her third-round knockdown ensured the judges would rule in her favor.
In fact, “Android 18” believes she was only moments away from a finish on both of those occasions, but for now, she’s happy to get back on the winning track and take some lessons into her next training camp.
“For the second round and the third round, I think if I had 10 more seconds, I could have finished the opponent. But it is what it is.
“Ninety percent of my preparation for this fight was striking, so I want to do more MMA training and grappling training after this trip.”
Itsuki Hirata Wants To Face Atomweight Elite
With a win behind her and an impressive 6-1 slate in mixed martial arts, Itsuki Hirata is ready to resume her charge toward the top of the women’s atomweight division.
She knows there are plenty of elite opponents in the bustling weight class, but she’s desperate to get redemption against #5-ranked Jihin Radzuan for the only blip on her record.
“This atomweight division has a lot of athletes on its roster, so I have many opportunities to fight. I’m so excited.
“I will bring my MMA [game] for the next one if I get a rematch against Jihin Radzuan, and I’m sure I will [increase] my level way over hers. I am confident.”
However, “Android 18” isn’t just fixated on the Malaysian sensation known as “Shadow Cat.”
The 23-year-old has plenty of potential rivals in her sights, and she’d be happy to battle any opponent who can propel her toward the ultimate goal.
“I actually want to fight against Ritu Phogat because I couldn’t fight her in the World Grand Prix. And I also want to fight against Stamp [Fairtex] as well.
“This division is stacked. Being a top-five fighter is an amazing thing. And being the champion is even more amazing. So one day, I want to beat [reigning atomweight queen] Angela Lee, and I want to be a World Champion in ONE.”