The past few days were a rollercoaster ride for former Shooto flyweight champion Hiromasa Ogikubo. He had been expecting to compete in a bantamweight title bout at Rizin 22.

The 33-year-old Japanese contender says it came as a shock to discover the event which had been set for April 19th was no longer happening,

“I didn’t know that it would be canceled until they held the press conference. I was really shocked. I wished that they were joking, but they were not,” Ogikubo said in a recently posted YouTube video.

Ogikubo won’t reveal the identity of the opponent he had signed to face but says fight camp was already up and running,

“I was in my car, heading to the gym for training when I found out. But I think they made the right decision. We are humans too,” he added.

Hiromasa Ogikubo and Shintaro Ishiwatari 3

Risk and reward

The postponement was particularly tough for Ogikubo to take as he was well aware of the risks involved in continuing to train during the coronavirus, or Covid-19, crisis,

“Close contact isn’t easy to avoid everyday in training. We’re anxious, and we can’t help it. We have to rush and lose weight because there may be a match. In spite of everything that’s going on, I kept on training while being scared of the virus,” he said.

The veteran was also concerned that cutting weight would make him more vulnerable to infections,

“I was pretty scared. I was losing immunity due to the weight cut, and I didn’t know if the fight would push through. In my mind, I had to make weight,” Ogikubo continued.

Hiromasa Ogikubo and Shintaro Ishiwatari 2

Top contender

Ogikubo hinted that Rizin is planning to stage a tournament to crown a new champion but refused to divulge any details,

“I couldn’t tell you for some reason,” he said with a smile.

“I think it’s true. I guess it’s just a matter of pushing it.”

But Ogikubo is adamant that he wants his next fight to be for the title. The Paraestra Matsudo representative believes that he already worked hard to establish himself as the top contender in the bantamweight division.

He is coming off back to back split decision wins inside the Rizin ring. Ogikubo beat Yuki Motoya at Rizin 17 and Shintaro Ishiwatari at Rizin 20 and believes this pair of victories should be enough to secure him a shot at the vacant belt,

“I am the challenger for the title. It will be better if the next fight is for the title. I will take it,” he said.

Hiromasa Ogikubo and Shintaro Ishiwatari

Potential opponents

Ogikubo says he is willing to fight anyone. He has his sights fixed on a date with either Victor Henry or Patrick Mix but acknowledges that Kai Asakura is also in the mix,

“It will be exciting to fight anyone of them,” he said.

Having a matchup cancelled at under three weeks notice was an anticlimax for Ogikubo. However he plans to continue training with intensity to ensure that he is in peak condition once the Rizin schedule resumes,

“I am still training. I am not playing games because it’s just a waste of time. I am trying to stay active because it’s difficult to regain my peak once it’s lost. But I am ready to fight anytime.”