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Itsuki Hirata unfazed by critics ahead of ONE 163 battle with Seo Hee Ham: 'I believe in myself'

Hirata respects the challenge ahead of her at this week's ONE 163 but believes she can walk away with the upset victory.

All successful mixed martial artists have their doubters, and Japanese judo expert Itsuki Hirata (6-1) is no different.

In fact, ahead of her bout against No. 2-ranked atomweight contender Seo Hee Ham (25-8), people think Hirata doesn't stand a chance.

However, "Android 18" believes she has the tools to win on Saturday, November 19, at "ONE 163: Akimoto vs. Petchtanong" and get closer to a shot at ONE women's atomweight world champion Angela Lee.

While the Tokyo native recognizes why some fans have picked her as the underdog, she's hungry to prove them wrong and show that she belongs among the atomweight elite.

Hirata said:

"I decided to take this fight because there is no advantage for me to fight with a fighter who is not ranked.

"This fight is a big challenge for me. Everyone thinks I will lose, but I believe in myself, and I think I have a chance to win."

At just 23 years old, Hirata has a long career ahead of her, but she decided there was no time like the present to go after her division's top-ranked contenders.

While her 6-1 professional slate stands small next to 35-year-old Ham's 25-8 record, "Android 18" wants to test herself against "Hamzzang" while the latter is still at the top of her game.

She said:

"Of course, I know she is the toughest opponent (I've faced so far). I wanted to fight her now while she is regarded as the strongest.

"Everyone said it was too early for me. But I thought, 'When is the right time?' If I wait too long, I don't know if she will keep her (position in the rankings). I would like to have a match while she is still regarded as strong. I don't think it's too early."

Hirata wants to end Ham's time at the top

Ham has been one of the best female competitors in the world for many years now, but Japanese star Hirata thinks it's her time to shine.

Though the Krazy Bee representative accepts that "Hamzzang" brings a huge edge in experience and some proven striking skills to this matchup, she has also seen gaps in her upcoming rival's game that she plans to exploit.

Hirata said:

"She is just a striker, that's it. No big deal. She fought in multiple countries and various events. But I want to make a change in the generation. We need to end her era. I need to make my era now.

"I watched her fight with Denice Zamboanga. I thought that Ham did not have much high-level ground skills. And ONE Championship's atomweight (division) is 52 kilograms. I think she is light in weight. I think I'm better than her in terms of physicality."

As the No. 2-ranked contender, Ham would definitely be a big scalp for Hirata if the Japanese sensation defeats the South Korean on November 19. However, Hirata is not getting ahead of herself.

Although ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong expressed interest in putting "Android 18" against Lee for the ONE women's atomweight world title if she is victorious, Hirata is happy to challenge all comers on her way to the top of the division.

She said:

"I think nothing will change at all (if I win). It's just a win. She is not a champion. I need to reach the world championship.

"(I could fight) Stamp Fairtex, Denice Zamboanga, or Jihin Radzuan (next) – I need to fight a lot of prospects. It's not easy to (get a) fight with Angela Lee."

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