Don’t write off the veteran. That’s the message from Hiromasa Ougikubo ahead of the Rizin bantamweight Grand Prix semi finals.

At 34 he is by far the oldest fighter remaining in the tournament. But Ougikubo is also the most experienced and he wants to show that he can still compete with the sport’s young stars,

“I’m the only one in my mid 30s. I want to show that I’m not about to be taken out by young ones.”

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Total confidence

He faces Naoki Inoue at Rizin 33 who is one of the favourites for the tournament. It is arguably the worst draw Ougikubo could have got but he says he wanted to take on the UFC veteran,

“Ever since this tournament started I’ve had my eyes on Inoue. I’m excited to finally meet him in the ring. I will win.”

His career has had its ups and downs. Ougikubo reached the final of TUF Japan but came up short in the decisive match and was not offered a UFC contract.

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Hard times

He was also beaten by Kai Asakura in a Rizin bantamweight title fight last year but is a former Shooto flyweight champion. But Ougikubo thinks having experienced this adversity will give him an advantage against the younger competitors in the tournament,

“Those who have been through harder times are simply stronger and that’s what I want to prove.”

It sounds like Ougikubo is thinking about retirement. He believes winning the tournament would be the perfect conclusion to his career story,

“I’m very excited. What I want to show everybody is that no matter how many times you come close to making it never give up. Climb back up and you can smile at the end of the story.”

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Happy ending

He will have to beat Inoue and, in all probability, Kai Asakura in order to achieve it. They are the two best bantamweights in Japan but Ougikubo believes he can do it.

He believes in happy endings and wants his story to have one,

“If win the tournament everything I want though was just part of the story building up to this moment.”