JMMA Monday: Kanna Asakura Feels Now Is The Time For Another Atomweight Grand Prix

Kanna Asakura will challenge Ayaka Hamasaki for the second time at RIZIN 27 (© RIZIN FF)
Kanna Asakura wants to compete in a Grand Prix once again (© RIZIN FF)

Competing in a Grand Prix tournament is a hard and grueling process. The deeper you get into a bracket, the bigger the challenges get. And those challenges come quickly and often. By the end of most tournaments, the top fighters are competing twice on the same night.

And yet, 2017 RIZIN Super Atomweight Grand Prix winner Kanna Asakura wants to do it all again.

The 24-year-old RIZIN talent believes that now is the right time for another tournament in the super atomweight class.

Asakura says a tournament gives the chance to showcase the current super atomweight landscape, one that she believes has grown greatly in recent years. And for her, she has the chance to show how she has evolved to face these challenges.

“It’s already been five years since the last women’s Grand Prix was held. So I’m sure it’s gonna be a whole different bracket, a whole different pool of fighters,” said Asakura in an interview with Knockdown News. “It’ll be a different Grand Prix for sure. But I’m [also] a different fighter now.”

Asakura made a name for herself in 2017 as part of RIZIN’s super atomweight tournament. She scored a big win in the final of that bracket, handing RENA her first pro loss with a first-round submission.

That win is still recognized by Asakura as one of the biggest moments of her career, and part of why she wants to compete in a tournament. “It would be nice to experience that again,” she said.

Part of why she thinks the tournament would be a good idea is because of how the division has changed. Most notably, undefeated talent Seika Izawa became the newest RIZIN Super Atomweight Champion earlier this year, dethroning Ayaka Hamasaki via unanimous decision.

Other names like Saori Oshima, who beat Asakura last year, along with Park Si-woo are new names that have also made an impact in the division.

These new and different challenges are something that Asakura looks forward to and wants to face head-on.

“I do feel that the level of competition is rising. And that’s good for any sport … For me, it’s threatening but it’s also exciting at the same time, to see our division is growing, [and] our sport is growing and there’s a lot more new competition to come.”

Looking ahead is something that Asakura has been doing since securing a big win recently. She struggled in 2021, suffering two consecutive losses for the first time in her career. This skid had her worried, even to the extent that she thought her career could come to an end with a third loss.

“I knew I couldn’t lose. Thinking about how losing may end everything was very scary,” she said. “And I felt like it was almost as if it was my debut.”

Asakura ended up prevailing at RIZIN 35, scoring a unanimous decision against veteran SARAMI. In a sense, it was her fears that allowed her to dial in and prepare for the fight. “Because of that scared feeling I had, I was able to utilize that feeling into setting up a really good camp,” she said.

Back on the right track, the main goal for Asakura remains one she has kept for years: to become the RIZIN Super Atomweight Champion. However, when asked where she stands currently in the division, Asakura didn’t know what to say.

She felt that a bracket is the best way to answer that question and also possibly provide a chance to earn a championship.

“I think the best way to find out [where I stand in the division] is a Grand Prix. Have a lot of fighters from different backgrounds and different stories join the tournament. There are a lot of tough fighters in the way, and there are a lot of fighters that I want revenge against. There are a lot of fighters that I want to beat simply to beat. So with all that being said, I think a grand prix is the best way to determine who stands where.”

Other Notes From The Week

  • “THE MATCH” is just over a week away. The event hit a big road bump last week, as it was announced major television network Fuji TV won’t broadcast the bout. It will still be available through Abema PPV, but losing a network channel in Japan is a huge deal.
    • It seemed as if “THE MATCH” would be on Fuji. However, the channel changed course last week and said that a contract was not met in time to hold a broadcast.
    • No real reason was cited, but it cannot be ignored that this comes amid the allegation last month from a tabloid newspaper that Nobuyuki Sakakibara has a working relationship with someone involved in organized crime.
    • Sakakibara, who has denied the claims of any involvement with organized crime, noted the possibility that the allegation is why the deal with Fuji TV didn’t work. (H/T Karaev_Fan on Twitter for his diligent coverage of this topic over the past month).
    • Also, one must wonder what this means for RIZIN on Fuji TV. Regarding that part, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
    • It seems that “THE MATCH” will never be free from anxieties for fans. Traveling back a year ago, some were worried this bout would never happen. And now in the final days before it is scheduled to go down, there are still worries that things could get in its way.
  • Before UFC holds a pay-per-view event in Singapore this weekend, they’ll have four “Road To The UFC” events from Thursday to Friday. Each show will have five fights and include the beginning of numerous tournaments. Here are the fights that include JMMA talent.
    • On the first show, featherweight Keisuke Sasu (also known as “SASUKE”) will meet Yi Zha. Also, Toshiomi Kazama will battle Maimaitituoheti Keremuaili.
    • Koyomi Matsushima will appear in the second show, facing Hong Jun-young at featherweight. Also, 19-year-old Takeru Uchida will face Shaun Etchell at flyweight.
    • The third show will include two LDH talents. In one fight, undefeated bantamweight Rinya Nakamura will face Gugun Gusman. Also, Sho Patrick Usami will face undefeated lightweight Anshul Jubli.
      • In a clash between two JMMA talents, Yuma Horiuchi will battle RIZIN alum Topnoi.
    • The final card will include a bantamweight fight between Shohei Nose and Wulijiburen.
    • More details on lineups and start times here.
  • Shooto Japan held a show in Hokkaido yesterday.
    • Yamato Nishikawa extended his winning streak in the main event, scoring a first-round finish victory over Choi Ji-un. He has now won 13 consecutive fights.
    • Miku Nakamura picked up a decision win against Haruna Kato in the co-main event.
    • GONG has a report on the card here.
  • Pancrase announced a pair of fights for their July 18th card, Pancrase 328. Notably, Kazuki Kasai and DARANI will meet at flyweight. More info.
    • Another interesting tidbit about them: they’re uploading English highlights to their Youtube. Worth checking out if you’re interested in seeing some Pancrase.
  • DEEP Impact is continuing to add to their July 10th show.

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