There is no doubt it is the biggest stage Tonna has fought on, and he is determined to prove he belongs with the best.
“It’s the biggest one in Asia and it’s slowly creeping up towards the UFC. It’s definitely good for Muay Thai and kickboxing, because we don’t get the exposure that boxing and MMA do so I enjoy it,” Tonna said.
“They’ve got heaps of fans. I’m hoping they expand to Australia, New Zealand and America. They just signed a big TV deal, they just signed a few UFC fighters, Miesha Tate is the vice-president.
“Not only in MMA, but they’ve got all the biggest names in Muay Thai and kickboxing. It’s definitely competitive company to fight for, there’s no easy fights. Nearly everyone has won a world title or they are current world champions.
“The fans and the crowd really excite me. There’s no better feeling, it’s scary before but it’s good and I’m happy I got the opportunity to represent my country, my gym and make my family and friends proud of me.
“That’s all I’ve wanted to do.”
It is his first bout since he stunned fans and commentators alike when he came from behind to defeat Joseph Lasiri in November, proving worthy of the six-sight deal he signed with the promotion last year.
Preparation for Tonna’s third fight of the contract has been hectic – on the tools at “a semi-construction site” better known as the Stockade Training Centre one minute, throwing punches in four-ounce gloves the next. But he has no time for excuses.
“[Akimoto] was a bit of a prodigy five years ago and all of a sudden, I don’t know if he retired, but he just stopped. This is his first fight in five years,” Tonna said.
“I only took the fight on New Years Eve, so I’ve only had 25 days to prepare for it. I don’t know what their plan is but I’m not knocking back any fights. I want to prove to myself that I can take any opponent on short notice.
“They’ve all been four to five weeks of preparation time, that’s all they’ve given me. Hopefully after this one they’ll give me two or three months of preparation time when I can be at my best.
“I feel strong and confident, whatever happens happens. I know I will put my heart and my body on the line all the time. I always make for an exciting fight.”
Friday: One: Hero’s Ascent at Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, 10pm (AEDT). Live on the One Championship app.
Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times