Former ONE lightweight world champion and Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki is celebrating his 10th year in the organization this year. 'Tobikan Judan' debuted in ONE Championship by submitting Arnaud Lepont via a triangle choke back on October 6, 2012. At the time, Aoki was already an established icon in the sport and made headlines by signing with the Asian fight organization during its infancy.
Fast forward 10 years, Shinya Aoki is already a two-time ONE lightweight world champion and has fought the very best in the organization. In an interview with ONE Championship, 'Tobikan Judan' looked back at his decade-long stint in the promotion.
One of the Japanese MMA legend's fondest memories is his two-fight series with Filipino MMA legend and former ONE lightweight king Eduard 'The Landslide' Folayang. Folayang was one of the pillars of ONE Championship as he headlined their very first event back in 2011. In 2016, 'The Landslide' finally got a crack at the lightweight strap and finished Aoki in a heart-stopping bout.
Looking back on his loss, Aoki said:
"Back then, I was in a really difficult time in my life. I was also facing troubles in my private life. I didn’t even have a huge motivation for fighting. Folayang is an iconic fighter in ONE, but also, I believe that I was the one who helped accelerate ONE’s momentum because of Folayang being crowned a world champion. I was the good loser."
After the Folayang loss, Aoki went on to challenge then-welterweight world champion Ben Askren but failed. The Japanese grappling wizard, however, bounced back with three straight wins and challenged the Filipino icon for the belt. This time, Aoki won soundly via his signature arm triangle choke.
Indeed, 'Tobikan Judan' exemplified the traits of a good loser and learned from his mistakes. He picked himself up, worked his way back into contention and regained his throne.
Shinya Aoki will fight Saygid Izagakhmaev in Japan, shuts down retirement talks
Despite being close to 40 years old, Shinya Aoki is still willing to tussle and lock horns with the younger warriors of today. At ONE 163 on November 19, the Asian MMA icon will face red-hot prospect Saygid Izagakhmaev.
Izagakhmaev debuted in ONE Championship this year with a lot of hype as he represented his iconic team and his legendary mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov. The Dagestani wrestler had a list of fighters he wanted to face inside the circle and Shinya Aoki was one of them. Leading up to their fight, Izagakhmaev had some choice words for the grizzled MMA veteran:
“I am happy to fight Shinya Aoki. Aoki is a legend in our sport. Back when I was in high school, I used to watch him fight. But with all due respect, I will retire him.”
Aoki was made aware of Izagakhmaev's statement and gave a response during the ONE 160 press conference:
"I know I’m facing so tough opponent. But I know this is something I have to do. That is my position right now. I will do my best. He [Izagakhmaev] will send me retirement? It’s not your business actually."
Shinya Aoki concluded with:
"I’m 39 years old now and six months to become 40 years old. When I see the number of my age, I’m in the final countdown. I understand that I hear about this countdown. But I’m the one who decides [when to retire]. When I quit, I will make my own decisions. When I fight, I will fight. Do or retire, I will decide. I believe I deserve to decide these kinds of things. So, I will decide when I need to."