Itsuki Hirata is taking on the #1 ranked atomweight in her next fight. Seo Hee Ham is a UFC veteran and a former Road FC and Rizin champion.

But she is also 13 years older then the Japanese fighter and it sounds like Hirata thinks her opponent is past her prime,

β€œHer weakness is probably her age. I think I have to win with my stamina due to my youth.”

The two will meet for the first time at ONE Fight Night 8 this month. But they do have plenty of history together and were supposed to be meeting in a title eliminator last year.

Last minute

That bout was called off at the last minute when Hirata failed her hydration tests and Ham refused to fight her. The Japanese fighter knows she cannot afford to make the same mistake again and admits to being nervous about the weight cut,

β€œI am full of anxiety but I believe in myself and will see it through.”

These days Hirata is based permanently in New York. She thinks the city gives her access to more sophisticated training methods and facilities than she would be able to find back home,

β€œI think New York is the best place for me to train because it offers opportunities in strength and conditioning, movements that are applicable to MMA, and the level of MMA and cage wrestling.”

It sounds like the 23 year old has been working on her wrestling,

β€œI feel that compared to America, Japan’s wrestling techniques are not as advanced. Since coming here, I’ve learned more wrestling centered techniques that I think will be useful in MMA fights.”

Honest assessment

Hirata has always been a grappler with the majority of her wins coming by way of submission. It sounds like she plans to play to her strengths against Ham,

β€œI’ve been focusing on wrestling and grappling, just like the last time. I think Ham is good at boxing range. When I watched her fight with (Denice) Zamboanga, I felt that her range of wrestling, grappling, and takedown techniques was narrow. I’m good at takedowns and ground fighting, so I hope to take it there, if possible.”

Hirata gives an honest assessment of her striking skills and doesn’t sound particularly upbeat,

β€œI do not have much confidence in my chin or striking. I believe that having the courage to move forward and not back down when I get hit is more important. If I back down, I believe I will receive twice the power of the strike from Ham.”

But despite being all too aware of her shortcomings Hirata intends to attack her opponent relentlessly,

β€œI’ll keep attacking until the very end no matter what the situation is.”