Kanna Asakura takes on Ayaka Hamasaki at Rizin 27 on March 21st. The latest event from Rizin Fighting Federation is set to go down at Nippongaishi Hall in Nagoya, Japan.
This top of the marquee prizefight is for the Rizin FF super atomweight championship with Kanna Asakura challenging for Ayaka Hamasaki’s hardware.
Asakura and Hamasaki are running it back for the sequel here with Kanna looking to even up the series with Ayaka.
Below are several excerpts from my recent conversation with Kanna Asakura ahead of this Rizin 27 title bid.
The training preparations for this Rizin FF bout
“Practice has been great and I feel good. I’m in good condition right now. Thank you for having me.”
The main gym for this camp
“So I’ve been training and preparing for this fight, just as always at my home gym Paraestra Matsudo.”
The main sparring partners that Kanna Asakura has been getting in work with
“I train with a lot of my teammates, but just to name a few. It would be Hiromasa Ougikubo, The former TUF runner-up. Ryo Okada, he’s the current Shooto bantamweight champion. A lot of high-level amateurs. My coach is Mr (Hiroshi) Tsuruya but his son is a wrestling elite. He just made his professional debut at 18 years old. But those would be my main training partners.”
The sentiment after having been on multiple New Year’s Eve cards in Japan for years now
“So regardless of the opponent, the New Year’s Eve events are always something special. There’s something added to that. Whatever opponent it may be, there’s just something more special about it. To me, it’s definitely the grand sum of my entire year. It’s something that will finish up my year of fighting. So in that sense, it’s very special. New Year’s Eve in Japan, it just has that special history behind it.”
“Lots of history and lots of great fighters fighting on New Year’s Eve. And for me to be part of that tradition itself, that itself is something very special. I’m very grateful and honored to be part of that tradition. It makes me feel obligated to put on a better performance than I usually can. So just being part of that tradition, it’s very humbling. It’s very motivating and exciting.”
The initial bout with Ayaka Hamasaki and if Kanna Asakura uses that for tape study in the rematch
“So I have been watching my fight against Ayaka (Hamasaki). Just for reference, right, preparing for this fight. But in terms of studying my opponent for this one, I’ve been watching a lot more of the Seo Hee Ham fight with Hamasaki. More than my fight.”
The reasoning for watching the Seo Hee Ham fight in particular
“So when you look at her most recent fight against Miyuu Yamamoto, that one kind of ended quickly. And Miyuu Yamamoto wasn’t able to showcase everything that she wanted to do, she wasn’t able to push Hamasaki to that limit. So when you look at that aspect, the Seo Hee Ham fight went all three rounds and it exposed Hamasaki to moments where she was in danger. And I think those types of fights is what I really needed to study. When I have to learn about Hamasaki. So that’s why I watched that fight a lot.”
Any kind of redemptive component to tying the Hamasaki series and also winning the belt?
“So for me, it’s definitely a redemption fight. Getting that revenge and getting that belt is just icing on the cake. For me, it’s just extra motivation and I definitely look at this fight as the redemption of my career.”
Competed a few times outside of the Rizin circuit in recent years like with Bellator and also Invicta FC.
Is there any desire to do more crossovers or is it just exclusively Rizin FF from here on out?
“So for me, I do feel strongly that I want to be a Rizin fighter. I want to continue to be a Rizin fighter. So you know if I were to fight abroad, which is very interesting and it’s very tempting to think about it. But if I were to fight outside of Rizin, I would still like to represent Rizin when I go into other promotions. If that works out, that would be fantastic. That would be exciting. But you know, deep inside I do want to continue to be a part of Rizin.”
Pancrase, Shooto, DEEP veteran, the Rizin 2017 Atomweight Grand Prix champion. A really veteran resume but still in her mid-20s and it seems like she has a very humble kind of demeanor that belies her impressive resume.
Can Kanna Asakura kind of talk about that dynamic where she has that veteran resume but still almost keeps a white belt mentality in a certain sense to kind of keep improving?
“So I do appreciate your words. But, you know the reason why I have so many fights at a fairly young age is because I just made my professional debut really early. That’s why I have so many fights and the experience. But I do feel like as a fighter I’m not even close to being a complete fighter. I do feel like I have much to grow and I’m not even close to being number one.”
“When you think about those facts that there are so many other fighters above you, it just puts you in your spot. So, I don’t really feel like I’m humble but I don’t feel like I’m number one at all. Just accepting that fact, I guess gives me this mentality of I can grow more. There’s so much more that I can do.”
What would represent being known as number one?
Is it just the general idea of pursuing the unachievable and trying to be the quintessential perfect martial artist?
“I think right now is the upcoming fight to capture that Rizin super atomweight belt against Hamasaki. And I think that by beating Hamasaki and having that Rizin belt around my waist, it will probably open up more doors for me mentally. I think I’ll have a different mentality once I get that. But first, I really need to focus on this fight.”
Asakura vs Hamasaki II
Well, that’s fair because I think a lot of people perceive Ayaka Hamasaki as the greatest atomweight of all time. So I think a win would validate a certain level of success in the sport.
Is that an assessment that Asakura agrees with in as far as Hamasaki being that all-time great atomweight?
“Yeah, I do agree. I agree that Hamasaki is definitely the best in the world in terms of atomweights. I think that if I can beat her, I could confidently say that I beat the best in the world. So I think beating her will change a lot of things.”
The ideal amount of fights that Kanna Asakura would like to take throughout the calendar year
“So with my first fight being at the end of March, in a perfect world, I hope I can get three or four fights in this year.”
Parting thoughts for Kanna Asakura
“For this year, I think the biggest goal that I could ask for is coming at the very first fight of this year. Once I overcome this challenge and get this belt, I think so many things could change. So many interesting ways that this could potentially take me. So I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the year and how this year may turn out to be. But, you know, it’s all gonna depend on the result of my upcoming fight. So I’m very excited. I’ve got nothing but positive and high hopes for this year. So just stay tuned and see what happens.”
I’ve been enamored with combat sports for as long as I can remember. I’ve hosted MMA talk shows Lights Out and Pure Fight Radio with featured guests like Jens Pulver, Roy Nelson, Miesha Tate, Mark Coleman, and more. I’ve been an MMA broadcaster for XFFC as well as BTC and have done play by play commentary on live pay per view on GFL as well as FITE TV. I’ve provided written, audio, and video content covering some of the biggest MMA promotions like Rumble in the Cage, Unified MMA, and King of the Cage. I’ve worked as a sports entertainment personality for over five years and given play-by-play or featured promotions of KSW, ONE Championship, TKO, and Invicta FC. My work can be found in the USA Today Sports affiliate MMA Torch, Cageside Press, MMA Sucka, and Liberty Multimedia.