If you are one of the 187,000 people who follow Itsuki Hirata on Instagram you will know that the Japanese atomweight has been spending a lot of time in the US. She fights in Singapore at the end of the month at ONE on Prime Video 1 but has been preparing for that matchup in New York.
Hirata has regularly shared photos of herself at New York landmarks. But she hasn’t just been sightseeing, the 22 year old has used the trip to hone her skills as she looks to bounce back from the first loss of her entire career.
She had never lost as either an amateur or a professional until dropping a decision to Jihin Radzuan at ONE: ‘X’. Next up for the Japanese fighter is a bout with Lin Heqin on August 26th.
So while Hirata’s social media has featured her eating burgers and visiting famous New York locations it has clearly been a working holiday:
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Hirata explains why she decided to do her fight camp in New York,
“I went because there is a wide range of athletes. There are many athletes with a long reach, height, and many female athletes. I thought, ‘I’m going to compete against non-Japanese athletes, so let’s go train abroad and challenge the people I’ve never experienced’.”
Hirata is known for her ground game but was comprehensively outgrappled by Jihin Radzuan. She has been working on every aspect of MMA but with a particular focus on striking,
“I go to several gyms to train in striking, BJJ, and Muay Thai, but striking is the biggest part for me. The striking coach, Nestor, who will be in my corner in the upcoming fight, is very harsh but he tells me ‘this is affection’ after every practice. I spent a month there this time because I was only able to go for two weeks last time.”
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Hirata says she hasn’t trained this hard since her early days competing in judo,
“I practice in a way that reminds me of the days when I belonged to the judo club at junior high school. I practice so hard that I believe it will have to pay off.”
She also says training in New York has been an eye opener because it has made her realize that some of the fighters there are mentally stronger than her,
“I thought I had a stronger heart than others but I realized the guts of the fighters I’ve trained with there are stronger than mine. My mentality has been strengthened to survive in that environment.”
Hirata admits that suffering defeat for the first time felt like ‘the end of the world’. But she hasn’t sat at home feeling sorry for herself, instead the 22 year old has travelled to the other side of the world to try and level up her training.
She will hope that her hard work pays off when she faces Heqin at ONE on Amazon Prime 1. People in the US will be watching and Hirata will be looking to showcase the skills she has picked up in New York.