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Itsuki Hirata (left) competes against Lin Heqin at ONE on Prime Video 1 in Singapore. Photos: ONE Championship

ONE Championship: Itsuki Hirata targeting the ‘monsters’ of atomweight division – and Angela Lee’s world title

  • Hirata rebounded from a loss to Jihin Radzuan with a decision win over Lin Heqin last Saturday in Singapore
  • Japanese star eyeing rematch with Radzuan, and fights with ‘Unstoppable’ Lee, Ritu Phogat and Stamp Fairtex

Itsuki Hirata is ready to go big game hunting in the atomweight division after a win over Lin Heqin at ONE Championship’s Prime Video 1 card last Saturday in Singapore.

The 23-year-old Japanese star met China’s Heqin, 28, on the event’s undercard, and after threatening with an armlock in round two and scoring a knockdown in round three, was awarded a unanimous decision win.

The win separated her from a March split decision loss to Jihin Radzuan, and now that she is back in the win column, she is looking for big opportunities in the atomweight division – namely a rematch with her recent foil.

“I will win my MMA fight if I get a rematch with Jihin Radzuan,” Hirata (6-1) said via an interpreter after her win over Lin. “I’m sure my level will be better than Jihin, so I am confident.”

Unfortunately for Hirata, Radzuan (8-2) is currently occupied with another challenge. The Malaysian talent is slated to fight former atomweight Grand Prix winner Stamp Fairtex (8-2) at ONE on Prime Video 2 – a test Hirata does not expect her to pass.

“For sure, Stamp will win [against Jihin], because Stamp has massive striking,” she said.

Malaysian atomweight Jihin Radzuan celebrates an upset victory over Japan’s Itsuki Hirata at ONE X on March 27, 2022 in Singapore.

Radzuan is not the only fighter on Hirata’s radar. The Japanese judo specialist is also interested in a fight with Ritu Phogat (7-2).

She was briefly expected to meet the Indian wrestling champion during last year’s Grand Prix, but was ultimately forced out of the match-up – and the tournament – with an injury.

She also sees Stamp as a future opponent.

“I want to fight Ritu Phogat again because I couldn’t fight her at the atomweight Grand Prix,” she said. “I also want to fight Stamp as well. This atomweight division has a lot of monsters, so I have many opportunities to fight. I’m so excited.”

“This division is stacked,” she added. “So many monsters.”

Hirata’s ultimate goal, of course, is the ONE atomweight title, which has been the sole property of Canadian-American champion Angela Lee (11-2) since 2016.

Atomweight champion Angela Lee (left) and atomweight Grand Prix winner Stamp Fairtex pose before their title fight at ONE X, which the former won by second-round submission.

“Being a top-five fighter is amazing but being the champion is more amazing,” she said. “One day I want to beat Angela Lee and be a world champion in this organisation.”

Hirata seems to recognise that a title shot is still some distance away. But after defeating Lin on Prime Video, her confidence is peaking.

“After winning a fight I can imagine everything,” she said. “I can imagine I will be the world champion as well but I don’t want to forget about the feeling of losing the last one, so I will keep that mindset as well.”