It has been nearly two years since Mina Kurobe last won a title. The 44 year old wants to add another belt to her collection and she is in a hurry to do it.

Kurobe might not have to wait too long. She is part of a four woman tournament which will determine the identity of the inaugural Shooto super atomweight (108lbs) champion.

She is booked to square off with compatriot Saori Oshima in the semi-final round at Shooto 0531. The event takes place behind closed doors at an undisclosed venue in Tokyo on Sunday.

Kurobe got her first taste of gold under the Deep Jewels banner. She captured the promotion’s atomweight belt by beating arch-nemesis Naho Sugiyama by unanimous decision in their 2017 rematch.

Her reign as champion lasted for almost two years and included a successful title defense against Satomi Takano in March 2018. Later that year she relinquished the belt to Tomo Maesawa albeit by way of a razor-thin split decision.

Starting over

After that fateful evening Kurobe felt that she was back to square one,

“If you’re the champion, it means you’re the best in your division or in the organization. When I lost the title, it hit me hard. It means I have to work myself up the rankings again. Earn it like how I did it before,” she said through a translator.

Kurobe took the long route towards her maiden title shot. She earned her first crack at an actual championship after winning nine bouts out of 11.

She knows that her career is coming to an end and Kurobe says that at this stage defeat is not an option,

“I want to be champion again, and for that to happen, I need to win each fight. If I’ll lose, it’s going to be difficult. Every fight is now important,” she explained.

Winning mentality

That winning mentality has been very evident in recent fights. Kurobe has won two out of two since signing with Shooto last year.

She scored a second round submission over Yee Ji Lee on her promotional debut at Shooto 30th Anniversary Tour in Tokyo and then followed that up with a stoppage win against Tanja Angerer at Shooto 30th Anniversary Tour 8th Round four months later.

Kurobe doesn’t know how many more title shots she will be offered. The veteran doesn’t have a specific timeline of her own for retirement but knows that there won’t be many more opportunities of this magnitude,

“I don’t know if this will be my last chance to fight for a title, but I know this will be the fastest way to get me to the title. I promise to do my very best. This is my shot. I’ve no plans of wasting this opportunity,” she stated.

Serious time

The woman standing in her way to advance to the finals is Oshima who left a lasting impression on her pro debut. She stopped fellow debutante Yuki Ono with ground-and-pound in the second round at Shooto 0126 earlier this year.

Kurobe’s opponent might be lacking in experience but she is not taking Oshima lightly,

“Never underestimate an opponent. It’s unwise if you’re going to judge your opponent based on his or her record. That person’s goal is to win. She also wants to be a champion. She trained for this. That’s why I have to take this seriously,” she stressed.

The other semi final pits Deep-Jewels veteran Megumi Sugimoto against the in form Mirai Nakamura. The bout is also slated for Shooto 0531 on Sunday.

Kurobe is not looking past Oshima. But should she pass that particular assignment the 44 year old has no particular preference for who she should face in the final,

“Those women are strong and talented. I cannot wait to see and feel what they are capable of. I wish them the best in their fight. But I have to deal with this opponent first. One win at a time. I would love to face either one of them for the title.”

ONE Championship’s atomweight division is host to some big names like Angela Lee and Stamp Fairtex. A contract offer could well await the tournament winner and Kurobe is determined to prolong her career while adding some new silverware to the collection.