Itsuki Hirata Breaks Down Atomweight Tournament

Published 08/31/2021, 5:37 AM EDT


Highly regarded Japanese female atomweight Itsuki “Android 18” Hirata is coming into her next fight full of confidence.

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Hirata is among eight of the world’s best atomweight fighters chosen to participate in the upcoming ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix, which commences with the quarterfinal round at ONE: EMPOWER this Friday, September 3, live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

The winner of the single elimination tournament will become the division’s #1-ranked contender and will earn the right to face “Unstoppable” Angela Lee for the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Title.

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Hirata couldn’t be more excited.

“This is the first women’s atomweight tournament in ONE Championship, and to participate in the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Grand Prix is a huge deal. ONE is the biggest organization in Asia, there’s a lot more riding on this fight than usual,” Hirata said.

“I think this is a great event to have just women. It’s refreshing. I want to show the world that when it comes to fighting, gender doesn’t matter. I think it’s cool for a woman to be a fighter and to be a hero. I think I can show the real strength of women.”

Hirata is scheduled to face ONE Championship newcomer, Alyse Anderson of the United States, in the first round of the tournament.

While it’s no doubt an important fight for her, there are other matchups the Japanese athlete is very much looking forward to watching, most notably Denice Zamboanga against dangerous South Korean veteran Seo Hee Ham, Meng Bo versus Indian wrestling star Ritu Phogat, and rival Stamp Fairtex versus Alyona Rassohyna.

Hirata has nothing but praise for her peers on the world stage, and is ready to take on any of them in the Circle.

“They are all incredibly strong fighters. I know people have high expectations for me. All I can do is fight and try to live up to those expectations. It’s natural that the strongest fighters are called the favorites,” Hirata said, before breaking down a few of her most anticipated matchups.

“I think Seo Hee Ham is worthy of it. I expect Seo Hee Ham and Stamp Fairtex to make it far in the tournament. With Ritu Phogat and Meng Boy, it’s safe to say Meng Bo is the favorite, but Phogat definitely has the advantage on the ground. It’s going to be interesting. But if Meng Bo can land that right straight, she will win.”

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Hirata is excited with the possibilities the tournament brings, but is careful not to look past her upcoming opponent. “Android 18” assures her fans in Japan that she will do everything in her power to claim victory and advance through the Grand Prix, and eventually challenge Lee for the belt.

I’ve been able to train well for my next fight because of the long preparation period. It has been perfect for me. This major event is finally happening, and I think that’s the most exciting part. I want to prove that girls in Japan are strong. I don’t want anyone to underestimate us,” Hirata said.

“I’m ready. I’m sure the champion is even stronger now that she’s a mom, so I really want to fight her.”

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ONE: EMPOWER is ONE Championship’s historic, all-female fight card featuring only women — the first for a major global martial arts organization.

In the main event, reigning ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan defends her World Title against #2-ranked strawweight contender, Michelle Nicolini.

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Varun Khanna

1334 articles

Starting off as a tennis author in 2018, Varun Khanna has gone on to contribute to EssentiallySports in various capacities. After setting up interviews with the likes of Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou, Alizé Cornet, and Noah Rubin, Varun is now part of all major ATP and WTA press conferences and has gone on to pen more than 1300 articles for EssentiallySports. He now heads the tennis and NBA division of the organization.

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