Itsuki Hirata Is Eyeing Up Stamp Fairtex, Mei Yamaguchi And Bi Nguyen
The undefeated ONE atomweight up-and-comer Itsuki Hirata, is hungry for new challenges. However, like the majority of athletes around the world, ‘Strong Heart Fighter’ is currently unable to compete due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But while she’s unable to compete inside the ONE Circle, the 20 year old is still training hard. Speaking to ONE Championship, Hirata explained how her older brother Naoki, a former judoka and now mixed martial artist, is helping her train during these difficult times.
“I am training with my older brother,” Hirata said. “I’m running, hitting mitts, doing core training, and so on. We have never trained together this much before. My brother was staying in dormitories and he didn’t live with us. He has just graduated from university, and now he is back at our home. Although I avoid going out, I actually feel like I am focusing on training more than before!”
Hirata’s brother Naoki, who recently won an amateur tournament in Japan-based MMA promotion DEEP, is a huge factor in her development as a martial artist.
“He is so strict, like a drill sergeant,” she said. “He is the type of guy who never cuts corners. He pushes me hard. He is so good at the ground game. When I was doing judo, I learned the ground game almost exclusively from my brother. Even now, we practice some moves together. He normally coaches me on groundwork about a month before my bouts. He is like my teacher. We didn’t live together except when I had bouts, but now he lives with us.”
The Japanese rising star had finished every opponent she has faced in her pro MMA career. And when things go back to normal, Hirata says she will be ready to go up against any atomweight ONE put in front of her. Including Stamp Fairtex and Mei Yamaguchi.
“I don’t really care [who I face],” the K-Clann representative said. “I want to be ready for whoever I get. But I think it is probable to face Stamp Fairtex and Mei ‘V.V.’ Yamaguchi.”
The 37-year-old BJJ bleck belt Yamaguchi, is a real veteran of the sport with 34 matches under her belt, and would be a great challenge for Hirata.
“Now we are in the same weight class and from the same country,” she said. “I want to face her someday. Mei-san is good at jiu-jitsu and the ground game. Also, she can do striking because she has a karate background, but I don’t have any [game plan] right now.”
On the other hand, a stand-up specialist Stamp, is the current ONE atomweight Muay Thai world champion and the former ONE kickboxing champion. She is now 4-0 in MMA and Hirata is well aware of the skills she would bring to the table.
“I don’t know how much athletes can practice in Thailand now, but I do not think I can win [if I faced Stamp] now,” she said. “But also, part of me wants to try and see how I can do. I am good at groundwork, so I would win by groundwork. Maybe she would want to keep the fight standing, so I need to think about how I can get things to the mat.
“I think I need to improve my striking, but also I need more practice on my ground game. I want to [develop] my technique, and I am focusing on that right now. I want to learn more moves — takedowns and throws, too.”
Beside Stamp and Yamaguchi, Hirata would also like to face Bi ‘Killer Bee’ Nguyen, who she was scheduled to face last February at ONE: Warrior’s Code. Unfortunately, the Vietnamese-American withdrew due to an injury. So she fought Nyrene Crowley on late notice, winning by a 3rd round TKO.
“I wanted to fight with Nguyen. She withdrew from the bout two weeks before, so if the timing allows, I want to try. I was training my striking a lot and since she is a southpaw, I was training with a left-handed athlete. I was confident.”
Ultimately, Hirata can’t wait to compete again and put on a great performance.
“I want to do the bout which gives the most energy to everyone,” she concludes.
Who would you like to see Itsuki Hirata face next?