Kazunori Yokota looking to make up for lost time

At 39 years of age, Japanese warrior Kazunori Yokota is racing against time to achieve his career goals inside the cage.

Now firmly in the veteran stage of his career, the Chiba native admitted last year that he was closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and said that he wanted to make an impact overseas before hanging up his gloves for good.

“Before I retire, I also want to perfectly win overseas,”

Yokota will travel to Kuala Lumpur for ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY, where he’ll take on Singaporean star Christian “The Warrior” Lee in a featherweight bout at the Axiata Arena. He bids to score a statement victory in his 37th professional bout.

Yokota has picked up titles as a lightweight and a featherweight in Japan’s DEEP promotion, but he’s looking to score similarly impressive success on the world stage with ONE Championship.

Things haven’t gone 100% to plan since joining ONE. He lost his debut to then-ONE Featherweight Champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov via submission, and his 13-bout win streak was promptly halted.

“Marat was a great martial artist,” said Yokota.

“I had trouble dealing with the hydration tests, so I want to challenge him again in a better condition.”

Things didn’t get any better in his second bout for ONE, as he was stopped in the opening round by future two-weight world champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in January 2017.

One of the reasons for his struggles, he said, was his difficulty adapting to ONE’s revolutionary weigh-in programme, which outlaws weight cutting via dehydration.

“I had difficulty with the urine test again,” he admitted.

“So I am trying to stay hydrated (this time).”

Now feeling more comfortable in his surroundings, Yokota will look to score his maiden win under the ONE Championship banner when he faces talented teenager Lee in Kuala Lumpur.

It represents an opportunity to not just get his first win in the ONE cage, but also a chance to catapult himself into championship contention by defeating one of the standout competitors in the ONE featherweight division.

If he’s adopting that mindset ahead of his bout, he’s certainly not letting it show.

“I just want to focus and win each bout that is in front of me,” he said, matter-of-factly.

Hhe was similarly straight-talking in his assessment of Lee as an opponent.

“He is just young and vigorous. I do not see any problems facing him.”