When it comes to female involvement in Japanese martial arts, few have been more of a pioneer than Mei Yamaguchi.
When word spread that ONE Championship would be bringing a show to Japan for the very first time, ONE: A NEW ERA, Yamaguchi made it her mission to find her way on the card in some capacity.
“I was in the press conference for ONE: A NEW ERA, and I really wanted to compete on the card,” she says. “I really wanted to get the chance to fight in front of my hometown.”
Yamaguchi got what she asked for when her bout with Pankration World Champion Kseniya “The Tigress” Lachkova was added to the already stacked supercard.
Despite a pair of losses to current ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee, Yamaguchi sits in the thick of the division’s title picture.
Yamaguchi closed 2018 with a dominant unanimous-decision victory over the Philippines’ Jomary Torres at ONE: DESTINY OF CHAMPIONS in December.
While Lee has gotten the better of Yamaguchi in their two matchups, both bouts have been difficult for the Singaporean champion. The most recent meeting between the two women took place at ONE: UNSTOPPABLE DREAMS in May 2018, and Yamaguchi appeared to push Lee to her limit.
Though she’s had two failed opportunities to defeat Lee, Yamaguchi still believes she can topple her rival.
“The third time’s the charm. I definitely want to win the [atomweight] belt,” she explains.
Time may be running out for Yamaguchi to defeat Lee for the atomweight title however. Lee is already scheduled to compete on the ONE: A NEW ERA card, but she is moving up to strawweight to challenge Xiong Jing Nan for her ONE Strawweight World Title.
If Lee is successful in winning the title in that division, she’ll become the first female martial artist to win World Titles in two different weight classes. Also, there is a chance she won’t come back down to atomweight to compete, depending on how she feels at strawweight. Would Yamaguchi be willing to move up to challenge her?
“I want to challenge for the atomweight title again, as well as the strawweight title,” Yamaguchi says.
“I am ready to fight Xiong Jing Nan or Angela Lee – whoever is ready. I want to knock them out with hard punches.”
At 35 years old, Yamaguchi is showing no signs of leaving her gloves in the cage. She’s been a martial artist for 12 years, and during that time, she’s accomplished a great deal despite standing just five-feet tall and getting a relatively late start in the sport as a professional.
Yamaguchi is also as tough as they come. Despite enduring 11 losses in her career, no opponent has been able to finish her.
The main card of ONE: A NEW ERA is already jam-packed with explosive matchups. But the addition of Yamaguchi to the card is icing on the cake.
ONE: A NEW ERA takes place at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on Sunday, 31 March.
In the main event, ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang defends his title against Japanese legend Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki in a highly-anticipated rematch.
In addition, there will be three co-main events. ONE Light Heavyweight and Middleweight World Champion Aung La N Sang defends his middleweight title against Ken Hasegawa. ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion Xiong Jing Nan puts her title on the line against Angela Lee. Reigning ONE Bantamweight World Champion Kevin Belingon takes on Bibiano Fernandes for the third time to determine who is the true king of the division.
The heavily featured card also showcases the promotional debuts of Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez. It’s going to be an amazing show, one that the whole world will not want to miss.