Kai Asakura has officially made himself a staple of the 135-pound division. To close out RIZIN 23 on August 9, the MMA world was treated to a stellar showing from the 26-year-old rising superstar. With 29 seconds remaining in the opening round of his vacant title contest, he would soccer kick Hiromasa Ogikubo to be named the victor.
“Honestly, I’m very happy. I’m very happy to be champion,” Asakura told MyMMANews on BROADENED HORIZIN. “But this is not my goal. It’s just a mile marker, so I’m not going to settle here. I’m not going to be very happy with what I have, this is just a mile marker. I have my goals set much higher.
“That fight played out the way I wanted it to play out. I did a lot of research on my opponent before the fight and I learned some of his tells during the fight — what he would do. He did exactly what I studied on. And it just all fit perfectly.”
Prior to the win over Ogikubo, Asakura fell short in a vacant title tilt opposite Manel Kape. To earn the opportunity, he put together a winning streak of six-straight. The two most recent in that lineup being UFC vet, Ulka Sasaki, and more importantly, the then RIZIN and Bellator king, Kyoji Horiguchi.
Asakura’s stunning 68 second knockout of the streaking Horiguchi (13-fight winning streak at the time) in their non-title affair was undeniably the upset of 2019. Between Ogikubo and Horiguchi, they were both massive for the younger Asakura brother.
“Both fights were important but if I had to choose, beating Horiguchi probably means more,” Asakura expressed, “Because Horiguchi is a well-respected name in the industry. And beating him it means more to me than winning the title by beating somebody less.”
Now the champion, it’s onto what could be next for Asakura. And with Horiguchi healed from suffering a torn ACL, it seems like only a matter of time before the two meet again with the roles reversed.
If the champ has his way, that’s what he’ll get.
“My [big] priority is the rematch with Horiguchi and beating him,” Asakura said, “[That’s] my number one priority at the moment. After that, if this pandemic continues it means that I can only face Japanese fighters. So if that’s the case, I’m not too motivated in facing anybody after I beat Horiguchi. So that’s my current state of mind.
“I know for a fact that I’ll be fighting on New Year’s Eve. But if things work out, I might be fighting this month.”
Despite being champion now, Asakura has lofty goals for himself. After the win, he mentioned hopes of one day getting to the UFC. Though, before the worldwide pandemic, there were some unique options for RIZIN fighters.
2019 was the year of cross-promoting for RIZIN and Bellator as their fighters went back and forth. Culminating at the year’s end, we saw organizational supremacy be fought over. Something that Kai’s brother, Mikuru, got to be a part of when he defeated John Teixeira.
After seeing Horiguchi claim both the RIZIN and Bellator crowns in the span of a year, Asakura revealed that he too is interested in following down that path.
As for his brother and what Kai’s success means for the family, he finds himself in a unique position.
“There’s a part of me that wants people to know me as an individual fighter,” Asakura said, “But the other half of me wants us to be known as the Asakura brothers.
“I think right now we have a good balance between both of us. Everything’s working out in a positive way. We get to motivate each other, it’s good motivation on both ends. If my brother does well, I know I gotta keep up and vice versa. So right now it’s working out quite well.”
You can listen to BROADENED HORIZIN in its entirety below as a podcast or at the top of the page on video.