There are four Japanese fighters in the super atomweight Grand Prix but Rena Kubota is the only one who is known for her striking. The Shoot Boxing veteran is a fan favourite and thinks she brings something completely different to the table.

“Japan has many strong grapplers (but) I’m the only one who can finish with strikes.”

The first time that Rizin held a super atomweight Grand Prix was in 2017. Rena reached the final but was submitted by Kanna Asakura in the opening round.

Both fighters will be back for this tournament and could end up facing each other for the third time. Asakura holds two wins over Rena but the latter is looking towards the current title holder,

“Now that Izawa is the champion, I  want to face her. I believe that I’m the only one who can beat Izawa.”


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Taking risks

Izawa is a wrestler and Rena feels her style could pose the newly crowned champion some problems. She faces Anastasiya Svetkivska in the opening round of the super atomweight Grand Prix on Sunday.

The Ukrainian is the least experienced fighter in the tournament but is a former IMMAF 115lbs regional champion. Rena, who made her pro debut on a Rizin card in 2007, has pledged to go all out for the finish,

“Winning by decision is not as exciting as winning by KO. I will take risks and go after the KO.”

She is a long term training partner of Ayaka Hamasaki. They are both participating in the tournament and Rena is aware she might have to fight her friend at some stage.

She says they already have a contingency plan in place,

“I will only fight Hamasaki if it’s in the final. If the fight is confirmed and we have to face each other we will train separately.”


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International appeal

Rizin fights consisted exclusively of Japanese based fighters during the pandemic. The borders have now opened up but according to Rena the original plan was to put on a tournament for local super atomweights.

Had Rizin decided to go ahead with this format Rena says she would not have participated in the Grand Prix,

“The original plan was a 8 woman domestic tournament but I was not interested. But now that the borders are opening up I decided to participate.”

She announced her retirement at Rizin 24 telling fans she would only fight two or three more times. But Rena says those plans have been shelved,

“I’ve given up on it (retirement). There are so many people who support me and I haven’t given anything back to them yet so I need to keep (going) a bit longer.”