For many martial artists, taking on one of the greatest of all time would pose a rather daunting – even intimidating – undertaking.
However, that’s not the case for ONE athlete Yuya Wakamatsu.
The man known as “Little Piranha” will square off with ONE Championship’s marquee new recruit Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson at ONE: A New Era in Tokyo on March 31 as part of the highly-anticipated ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix.
Despite the American’s decorated career as a 12-time Flyweight Mixed Martial Arts World Champion, where he established himself as the weight class’ undisputed best ever, the 24-year-old Wakamatsu is confident he’s capable of pulling off what would be one of the biggest upsets in combat sports history.
“I think this is fate and a miracle can happen,” said Wakamatsu.
In front of what is sure to be a capacity crowd at the iconic Ryogoku Kokugikan Arena, the Tokyo native believes he can ride the wave of local support to victory and mark ONE Championship’s inaugural visit to Japan in fitting fashion.
“Demetrious Johnson is the best fighter in the world, and this is a huge chance for a guy like me,” Wakamatsu said.
“I just need to do my best against him.”
The bout against Johnson will be the undoubted highlight of his young career to date, in what has been a long and winding road to life as a professional martial artist.
After being guided towards the world of mixed martial arts by a friend in his rural prefecture of Kagoshima, Wakamatsu instantly fell in love and began to redirect his often misguided energy into becoming the best athlete he could possibly be.
That led to the heart-wrenching – but ultimately pivotal – decision to leave his family behind and head to the nation’s capital to join the team at the renowned Tribe Tokyo gym, where he’d have access to a whole new world of training resources.
“I wanted to become a better martial artist, so it was important that I moved to Tokyo,” he said.
That move has well and truly paid off. The striking specialist has since evolved into one of the flyweight division’s most promising prospects, working his way to a 10-3 record as a professional.
The 24-year-old can hardly believe the progress he’s made as he prepares for his biggest test yet.
“I was just a carpenter in Kagoshima long ago, and now I am going up against a World Champion,” Wakamatsu said, shaking his head.