Mikuru Asakura stands on the precipice of championship glory, but you wouldnât know it based on his demeanour. Ahead of his Rizin 25 fight with Yutaka Saito, which will crown the promotionâs inaugural featherweight champion, the 28-year-old Japanese star is the picture of nonchalance,
âEverything is as usual. Iâm totally normal.â
Asakuraâs coolness can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that he knew the opportunity to fight for gold was coming his way. The featherweight star is unbeaten in the Rizin ring, having toppled the likes of Hatsu Hioki, Luiz Gustavo, Yusuke Yachi and John Teixeira.
He makes it clear that he feels the opportunity to fight for the featherweight title is overdue,
âAs I said in the presser, Iâm undefeated in the promotion after seven fights so I totally deserve this.â
While thereâs no questioning that Asakura has earned a crack at the Rizin featherweight title, itâs not quite as easy to justify his opponent receiving the opportunity to do so. Saito is undeniably talented, and is a two-time champion in Shooto, but has fought just once under the Rizin banner, defeating Kazumasa Majima via second-round knockout in his August debut with the promotion.
International fighters arenât currently able to compete on the card and Asakura can understand why his opponent has been fast tracked to a title shot,
âI think during these circumstances, itâs acceptable (for Saito to receive a title shot). I donât have very much to say about him. His title is the current Shooto featherweight world champion (and) heâs got a strong heart,â Asakura added.
While Asakura respects Saitoâs accolades and toughness, he says he has spotted some holes in his rivalâs game, which he intends to exploit when they step into the ring together later this month.
âAs usual, Iâve studied his fights,â he said. âIâve found his tells.â
If things go according to Asakuraâs plan in this matchup, heâll be crowned the Rizin featherweight champion. He also believes heâll become one of the organizationâs marquee stars.
â(If I win the title) it means that I will become the face of this promotion,â he said.
Itâs hard to argue with that claim from the 28-year-old. He and his brother Kai Asakura, who currently holds the Rizin bantamweight title, are two of the most prominent fighters on the promotionâs roster. Thatâs due in part to their talent, but also to the push the organization has given them both.
Asakura, for his part, is satisfied with the way Rizin has gotten behind him,
âI think they do a good job with promoting us,â he said. âItâs a good thing for me.â
That being said, the streaking contender wonât be resting on his laurels. He hopes that, after winning the promotionâs featherweight title on November 21, heâll be in a position to start taking on international MMA stars and pushing his own stardom to new heights.
âI want to challenge fighters who are said to be better and more famous than me,â he said.
In order to secure those type of matchups Asakura will first need to get by Saito at Rizin 25. He recognizes that reality, and is focused solely on the task at hand,
âI need to finish this upcoming fight first,â he said.
Asakura has a 100% record with Rizin and wants to dominate Saturdayâs fight from start to finish,
âI will continue to be in the dominant position throughout the fight.â