by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo courtesy of GCM Communications)

If you don’t know the name Takayo Hashi, you soon will.

The rising star from Japan will be competing on Friday for the Strikeforce 135-pound women’s title against top ranked Sarah Kaufman. The bout will crown the first champion for the promotion in the weight class.

While women’s fighting has a long standing history in Japan, the growth of the sport has exploded in the United States over the last couple of years, and Hashi is proud to be Strikeforce’s choice to fight for the inaugural title.

“I am honored that I was given an opportunity to fight for the world title. As a representative of Japan, for sure, I want to bring that 135-pound belt back to Japan,” Hashi told MMAWeekly.com in an exclusive interview.

“I’ve had a dream of fighting in the world title fight for a long, long time, and finally, I can be in that stage. So what I have to do now is to use my own strength to get my dream, that belt, around my waist. I will carry not only just the Rising Sun on my shoulder, but also everything about my life, that is how I am going to fight. Also I am going to fight with a pride where every women’s MMA fighters in the world can be proud of our sport.”

Providing the opposition for Hashi will be top ranked and widely considered the No. 1 fighter at 135 pounds, Canadian Sarah Kaufman. Kaufman brings with her an undefeated record, and a reputation for vicious knockouts and submissions.

“I am fully aware that she is very strong and dangerous. She is aggressive and she doesn’t back paddle, and strikes hard,” Hashi commented. “She has got a stamina too, so I think she is a very tough fighter. As you can see from her professional record, she is a tough fighter to beat, but that also became my motivation because I am always looking forward to face a strong fighter.”

Coming from a kickboxing pedigree, Kaufman is a powerful striker who can knock out an opponent with fists or kicks, but Hashi says she won’t back down and fans are in for a stand-up battle come Feb. 26.

“I imagine, overall, it’s going to be a striking battle. If she has got a pride in her striking ability then I would like to crush that pride by striking against her,” Hashi said with confidence.

“If this fight hits the ground, then I will show my pride in the ground game. In all aspect of this fight, I will not back off. So, for sure, this is going to be an extremely tough fight. Just as like my other fights, my approach is to break my opponent’s heart.”

When it’s all said and done, Hashi hopes to leave the United States with gold wrapped around her waist, and bring the pride of the women’s title back to her home in Japan.

“First of all, I want the American fans to remember ‘Japan’s Takayo Hashi.’ That is why I definitely want that belt,” Hashi stated. “I will be aggressive in both standing, and on the ground, and would like to provide a very exciting fight. I want to show that Japan’s Hashi is going head to head against world’s top fighter in the cage. And if the fans says, ‘I want to see Hashi’s fight again!’ after the fight, then I would be very happy.”

Hashi was also quick to thank those who got her to the fight in Strikeforce, and hopes to provide them with a win and a title belt in February when she returns home.

“I really would like to thank No Gi and Fight Chix for becoming my sponsors for this fight, and also, everyone who supported me in Japan,” said Hashi. “It’s really encouraging to know that sponsors and supporters are looking out for me. In order for me to express my gratitude, I have to win and became an inaugural champion, that’s it. I want to return a favor to everyone by providing a positive result.”

Takayo Hashi challenges Sarah Kaufman for the first ever Strikeforce 135-pound women’s title Friday in San Jose, Calif.