Asuka Mikami next fight will be for a title under the banner of one of the most reputable promotions in the world, but the career of the Japanese flyweight, who faces Adriano Moraes at ONE: Age of Champions, started out in a very different fashion.
During what, by his own admission, was a misspent youth, Mikami decided to participate in an unregulated, underground fight, which he lost. That defeat not only inspired him to dedicate himself to training, it also instilled the sort of determination to succeed, which has led him to the brink of a world title.
“I lost at underground fighting for the first time, so I decided to start training seriously and after that, I never lost again.”
Mikami’s martial art’s background is highly unusual in the modern era in that he has a background in the sort of unsanctioned competition that made Kimbo Slice an internet sensation. But, whereas the former YouTube star has had mixed results in professional competition, the Japanese flyweight is the owner of an exemplary 11-2-1-1 record.
Just as it took that first loss in underground fighting to make Mikami realize that he needed to train properly, he would endure a similarly chastening experience at the start of his professional career, dropping decisions in two out of his first three fights.
There was certainly a period of acclimatization for Mikami, as he discovered that the techniques that had served him so well on the underground scene would not quite cut it against professional opposition. But once again, he was able to make this adjustment, something he did so successfully that there he has not lost a single fight since.
The last time Mikami tasted defeat was in 2009 and he says that MMA has helped him avoid going down the same destructive path as some of his contemporaries.
“A lot of guys around me went to jail, but I am able to live an ordinary life because I can support myself financially through MMA and I can concentrate on that instead of making mistakes with my life like committing crime.”
Establishing himself as an MMA fighter also led Mikami to reunite with a family he had long since left behind.
“When I was a kid, I ran away from home, but after I became famous through MMA, I met my family again and things are good with us now. One of my ancestors was a famous warrior, so I guess fighting is in my blood.”
Mikami credits the team at the Hearts Gym as being a major source of inspiration on his MMA career and says he is motivated by the challenge of establishing himself as ONE Championship’s top flyweight. It’s not just about the glory though, he’s also hoping that a contract with Asia’s biggest MMA organization will be sufficiently lucrative to help him pursue a potentially expensive hobby.
“I like gambling, but I had to stop since I became famous as a fighter. I also love cats and when I become rich in ONE FC, I’m planning on buying a jaguar or a caracal.”
Attempting to buy an endangered animal on the black market might put Mikami’s self-proclaimed status as a law abiding citizen in jeopardy, but if he could win the ONE Championship title by beating Moraes in Kuala Lumpur, it would complete his remarkable transformation from backyard brawler to full-fledged MMA champion.
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