Mei Yamaguchi’s shot at ONE world championship gold may have been put on the back burner, but she still has something to gain after being handed a new opponent for her bout at ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT.
Yamaguchi was scheduled to challenge Singapore’s Angela Lee for the ONE Women’s Atomweight World Championship on 24 November at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, but an accident meant Lee was ruled out of the event.
Thankfully, the World Champion escaped with superficial injuries, but it also meant Yamaguchi’s chance at championship gold was taken off the table for this event.
“I was told that Angela was in a car accident. I was surprised, but was so glad that she was okay,” said the 34-year-old Japanese contender.
“Then, I tried to keep concentrating on my training because I believed that ONE was looking for another opponent.”
Indeed they were, and when the came back to Yamaguchi with the name of her new opponent, she was happy and motivated to continue her training ahead of the event.
That’s because Yamaguchi was matched against Gina “Conviction” Iniong, who defeated Yamaguchi by split decision after three competitive rounds at a regional event back in 2014.
It means that Yamaguchi has gone from preparing for one rematch to training for another, having lost to both Lee and Iniong earlier in her career. As a result, the motivation to avenge a previous defeat remains constant, despite the change of opponent.
“I was glad that Gina answered ‘yes’ to the match on the Singapore card with me,” she admitted.
“I have always looked for a chance for revenge. This is the perfect moment.
“My image of the last match was Gina getting some points with her boxing, and me with my ground game.
“It was back and forth, but all of my team thought I won.”
Both athletes have progressed significantly since their first meeting, and with Lee ruled out for the short term, this newly-arranged bout effectively represents a world title eliminator, with both women in prime position to challenge for the belt.
“Gina has a really good right hand she throws, and she is strong and physical,” Yamaguchi said.
“I am better with the ground game and improved more in my boxing skills compared to our previous match.
“She competed against a good kickboxer recently, was controlling her opponent well on the ground, and was really aggressive. She looked like she won without taking much damage.”
While Yamaguchi admits her opponent has improved her skills, she says the matchup will not stand in her way of her ultimate aim of challenging - and defeating - Lee in the rematch she’d originally prepared for.
“My story will not end here,” she declared.