Kai Asakura has a chance to become the Rizin bantamweight champion tonight.

Asakura is scheduled to lock horns with Portugal’s Manel Kape for the vacant belt in a rematch which headlines Rizin 20.

Asakura comes into the most important bout of his professional career riding a wave of confidence. In the space of less than two months, the Aichi native has defeated Kyoji Horiguchi and  Ulka Sasaki.

It has been a huge year for the 26 year old,

“My 2019 was surreal. I won two big fights this year that led me to this title shot. I can’t say that it’s unexpected because I know that I am a champion material since day one,” Asakura said through his interpreter.

Kai Asakura and Ulka Sasaki


Top contender

It was clear that Asakura was the top contender for Horiguchi’s bantamweight crown after he beat the champion in a non title bout. The latter suffered a serious knee injury so Kape stepped up to replace him.

They first crossed paths last year with Asakura coming out on top by way of split decision. The Japanese fighter says he doesn’t mind who he fights as long as the title is on the line,

“The opponent change isn’t a big deal for me. I’m always ready. I don’t need to change my style. For me, it is just about focusing on what I need to do in there,” he said.

While he will not underestimate Kape, Asakura believes that he has the strategy that will steer him to another victory versus his rival.

“Just fight hard, apply the pressure, and watch for relentless strikes. That’s my plan. I will be changing levels with my attacks. I will be over him. If he wants to go to the ground with me, I will welcome it. It’s fine,” he said.

Kai Asakura and Manel Kape


Confident mode

Having already beaten Kape once he is confident of repeating the feat at Rizin 20,

“I am going to think fast, move fast, and keep busy in there. I need to be all over him. I’m not really worried about him,” Asakura added.

Asakura feels he is already the champion. But he doesn’t own the belt just yet and is determined to change that tonight,

“I beat the champion a few months ago, so I am the champion now. But I don’t want them to give the title to me just like that. I am fighting for it. I want to prove that I deserve to become the champion. I’ll give everything I have to get the title,” he promised.