ONE Championship newcomer Ken Hasegawa will challenge for a World Title at ONE: SPIRIT OF A WARRIOR, but he will have to step into the lion’s den to prevail.
Hasegawa has arrived in the world’s largest martial arts organization to take on reigning two-weight World Champion Aung La N Sang.
The contest will be for his ONE Middleweight World Championship in “The Burmese Python’s” home country of Myanmar on Friday, 29 June.
The Japanese contender has faced his fair share of tough tests in his career, but he says the challenge of stepping into the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium in Yangon to dethrone Myanmar’s first-ever sporting World Champion is his biggest yet.
“It will be my toughest match ever, and he will be the strongest opponent I have ever had,” the 31-year-old challenger admits.
“I really like the idea of facing a national hero in his home country. It is going to be one of the biggest challenges of my life.”
Hasegawa made his name in Japan, where he went undefeated in his first 13 bouts and won the DEEP Megaton Title – a belt for the organization’s open-weight contests.
After two title defences against bigger, stronger opponents, Hasegawa decided to vacate his belt so he could compete at his natural weight at a higher level on the international stage.
“To compete abroad, I whittled down to light heavyweight, middleweight, and even to welterweight,” he says.
“But going to welterweight did not suit me, so I went back to middleweight.”
Happily set in his natural division, Hasegawa quickly established himself as the number-one middleweight in Japan.
After building an impressive professional record of 16-2-1, Hasegawa heads into ONE Championship looking to silence one of the loudest crowds in Asia and walk away as a World Champion.
His task is certainly a stern one. Aung La N Sang is one of the most successful athletes in ONE Championship.
He dethroned the powerful Russian world champion Vitaly Bigdash to capture the ONE Middleweight World Title in June 2017.
He followed that by becoming a two-weight World Champion with a stunning head-kick knockout of Brazil’s Alexandre Machado in February to claim the light heavyweight belt.
Between those two wins, “The Burmese Python” showcased his submission skills with a first-round finish of heavyweight athlete Alain Ngalani in a special Open-Weight Super-Bout last November.
Hasegawa has analysed those match-ups, and says he will pose an altogether different test to those three men.
“I am not like the opponents Aung La N Sang has had before, who gradually get hurt and slow down,” he says.
“I get stronger after I get hurt, and I can still move forward aggressively after I get tired. That is how I am different from his former opponents. My mind is strong.”
With championship experience, plus a career spent facing bigger and stronger opponents, Hasegawa believes he’s perfectly prepared to take on Aung La N Sang and emerge with his hand raised.
“I prefer to not reveal my game plan, but I am looking to set the pace with the striking, and I would like to finish Aung La N Sang with a rear-naked choke,” he says.
“My goal is to win this upcoming bout and become the ONE Middleweight World Champion.”