Itsuki Hirata is a rising star in women’s MMA. At just 21 years old, the young judoka has made a ferocious start to her professional career, serving up four straight finishes.

She only made her debut two years ago, but Hirata’s performances have been so impressive that they earned her a place in the ONE Atomweight World Grand Prix. It is an accomplishment she is understandably proud of,

“I’m really proud to be the one chosen as a representative of Japan and I’m going to do my very best to get to the title match and get the belt for myself,” Hirata told asianmma.com.

As the youngest fighter in the tournament Hirata feels she has a point to prove,

“Because I’m the youngest I have so much to prove and so much to show myself against these opponents,” she added.

Susumu Nagao

Powerful opponent

Having submitted all three of her amateur opponents as well maintaining a perfect professional record, Hirata has high standards. The young star finished Miki Nakamura via ground and pound at Road to ONE 7  in February but was less than satisfied with her performance.

“So that fight was in my opinion the worst way I could have won. I was too focused on winning and I didn’t really think through on how to win. I’m not happy with my performance at all. And I do think part of it was because I didn’t compete for over a year, but I wasn’t very happy with how it played out,” she said.

Hirata will face an intriguing match-up in the opening round of the tournament at ONE : ‘Empower’. She’ll be tasked with welcoming Alyse Anderson to the promotion, an Invicta FC veteran with a 4-1 record.

“I know she’s bigger and she’s probably more powerful than all of my opponents thus far, but I’ve been making sure to train with training opponents that are slightly bigger than me as well in order to adapt to that fighting style,” said Hirata.

Susumu Nagao

Collision course

A win for Hirata could set her on a collision course with Meng Bo, a fighter with whom she’s an expressed plenty of interest in challenging herself against. If the Japanese star can keep winning, then she could be set to face one of the most accomplished fighters in the history of the sport in the final.

Namely, Seo Hee Ham, who sits on the other side of the bracket. The Korean is a highly-decorated fighter whose accolades make her one of the obvious favourites to win the Grand Prix.

Ham was the Road FC atomweight champion and Rizin super atomweight champion when she signed with ONE Championship. Hirata sees this as a dream fight and already has her sights set on a matchup with the Korean in the final,

“I do want to go against her and she’s the one who won the belt at Rizin. She’s the one who could be considered at the top of Japanese women’s MMA at the time she won the belt. So, I’m definitely interested in competing against her and getting to the top and seeing how things play out for sure. And I’ve heard that’s a fight people would want to see.”