Karate World Champion Hiroki Akimoto plans to make a splash in his ONE Super Series Kickboxing bantamweight debut.
He’ll get that chance when he battles third-ranked contender “Muay Thai Boy” Zhang Chenglong this Friday, October 16, at ONE: REIGN OF DYNASTIES II, which was previously recorded in Singapore.
Impressive in the flyweight division, Akimoto looks to carry over the same success at a higher weight class, setting his eyes on cracking the division’s top five with a sensational performance against the Chinese athlete.
“I want to win, earn a spot in the rankings, and be a top-level contender to challenge for the World Title,” he told ONEFC.com.
Akimoto last competed against Kenny “The Pitbull” Tse in 2019, where he won but sustained an injury that prompted him to move up in weight.
Sidelined because of his damaged hand, Akimoto started building his body up, gradually adding weight to make his transition to bantamweight seamless.
“I broke my left fist in the bout [against Tse],” Akimoto said. “I felt like I couldn’t compete for about a year, so I was hoping that I could build my body and move up a weight class during that time.”
“I think I have prepared well. My coaches say my kicks and punches have become heavier.”
He expects a tough grind in his bantamweight debut though.
When he takes on Zhang, he knows that he will be up against someone who can take as much as he can dish out.
He noted his Chinese foe’s strong punches and it’s something that he is going to be looking out for in the contest.
“I thought he was a powerful athlete, so I was not sure how it was going to be. I had the impression that he was a tough athlete with strong punches. He has a strong chin and stamina,” Akimoto said.
At the end of the day, anything less than a win would be a disappointment because he hopes to scale the division and challenge for gold.
“To aim to be a World Champion means I have someone to look up to,” the Japanese athlete said. “I want to be a ONE World Champion, defend the belt, and be a person who is looked up to.”
Watch ONE: REIGN OF DYNASTIES II on One Sports+ at 8:30 p.m. Philippine Standard Time (PHT). Also, One Sports will air the event on a same-day delay at 9 p.m. PHT.
In addition to that, TV5 will air the show on a next-day delay at 11 p.m. PHT on Saturday, October 17. You can also catch all the action on the ONE Super App for free.