Andrew Leone eyes title shot with victory over Shinichi Kojima

Andrew Leone (6-2) is looking to drop his name into the contenders’ hat with a win over Shinichi Kojima (13-5-5) at ONE FC 14: War of Nations this Friday.

The 24-year-old had a successful ONE FC debut last May, capping off a solid performance with a lopsided Unanimous Decision victory over Geje Eustaquio. Although he wasn’t able to finish his Filipino counterpart that night, he certainly didn’t play it safe in that thrilling contest either.

Now, heading into his next fight with former Shooto champ Kojima, he duly believes this is the fight that will propel him into a title shot, and he’s ready for the challenge tasked in front of him.

“I’m working hard for this win, so we’ll see what happens after it’s over. I can perform in the room, and I just need to do it on the big stage, just like every competition. It’s another step towards the goal,” Leone told Fight Sport Asia. “These fights are definitively important. I am putting the hours on the mat and working hard. I know I’m doing the right things.”

Leone, who suffered a defeat in the very first fight of his pro MMA career, rebounded with an impressive five-fight win streak over a spell of two years that saw him top South Korea’s finest talents such as Kyung Ho Kang and Soo Chul Kim.

Those outings also saw the 24-year-old compete out of his comfort zone at 135-lbs.

But, now with an exclusive contract with ONE FC, Leone is getting the right fights at 125-lbs. And he wants opponents like Kojima, who he believes are the type of fighters that should be on his timeline if he wants to secure the promotion’s ten-pound strap around his waist.

“I’m taking this fight really seriously. Just training with (the UFC’s) Jumabieke Tuerxun everyday has given me a lot of mat time with a guy of a smaller size,” he said. “Maybe there will be a feeling out process at the start, but I have a feeling I’m going to move forward like usual which is never my intention. I hope to be cool, calm and collected come action time. Just some controlled explosion, man.”

And, Leone says he’ll keep his eyes peeled on the Urushitani-Moraes scrap that’ll take place after his tussle with Kojima on Friday night.

He understands all too well that he could be paired against the winner of that bout for the vacant Flyweight strap, so he will be awaiting the outcome.

But, he feels the prospect of fighting either fighter isn’t necessarily playing on his mind.

“It doesn’t matter who wins to be honest. Because both are good fighters,” Leone concluded. “It will be fun to watch. But if I had to pick a winner, I’d like to fight that Brazilian kid (Moraes). And no, it’s not a call out or anything. You asked me to pick a winner so I did. (laughs)”

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Phuket Top Team’s Andrew Leone battles Shinichi Kojima in match-up with Flyweight title implications at ONE FC 14: War of Nations. The bout, which takes place on the night’s main card, streams LIVE on an online pay-per-view and airs LIVE on Star Sports in Asia.

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To listen to an exclusive radio show on ONE FC 14: War of Nations, click here.

To check out Fight Sport Asia’s exclusive breakdown of Friday’s stacked ONE FC line-up, click here.

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Thinesh John is a Singapore-based MMA writer. You can check out some of his work over on MMASucka.com. Follow him (@ThineshJohnMMA), and be sure keep up with the latest Asian MMA news from FightSportAsia.com on Twitter (@FightSportAsia) and Facebook

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Categories: Asian MMA, Featured, Interview, Malaysia, MMA, ONE FC, Phuket Top Team

Author:Thinesh John

20, Asian MMA nerd in Singapore.

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