MMA Legend Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki from the Evolve Fight Team will be out for redemption when steps into the ONE Championship cage opposite current titleholder Eduard “Landslide” Folayang of the Philippines in the main event of ONE: A New Era on 31 March.
The 35-year-old mixed martial arts veteran is in the final stages of preparations for one of the biggest tests of his illustrious career, made even more significant that the showdown takes place in Tokyo’s iconic Ryogoku Sumo Hall, where the country’s most epic martial arts spectacles are traditionally held.
On the 15th year of his professional career, Aoki feels stronger than ever, and ready to deliver the performance of a lifetime.
“Physically, I feel really strong and ready. I am always dedicated to training. I love it. It keeps my body and mind young. If it were up to me, I would be a fighter until the day I die. This is my life and I love competition,” said Aoki.
“Heading into this bout, I know I have to prove myself, but I live for these challenges. To face the best, and to prove that I am better, it gives me an incredible rush of excitement.”
Folayang, who is the current ONE Lightweight World Champion, defeated Aoki in November of 2016. Two and a half years later, the two are set to meet again in one of the most highly-anticipated rematches in Asian martial arts history.
At a young age, MMA Legend Shinya Aoki from the EVOLVE Fight Team chose to dedicate his life to his passion and hasn’t looked back since. Support Shinya as he challenges for the ONE Lightweight World Title on 31 March at ONE: A New Era in Tokyo!
Posted by Evolve MMA on Monday, March 25, 2019
For Aoki, the lessons he learned from the first encounter with Folayang have stuck with him and has made him a better fighter.
Following the first setback in his career in over four years, Aoki went on to put together a nifty three-bout winning streak featuring submission finishes of Russia’s Rasul Yakhyaev and Malaysia’s Ev Ting, as well as an impressive knockout of Thailand’s Shannon Wiratchai.
Against Folayang for the second time, Aoki acknowledges the tough challenge that lies ahead.
“He (Folayang) is very strong and his wrestling has improved a lot over the years. He is also a very intelligent fighter. It’s going to be a big challenge to overcome his striking, but I believe in myself and I know I can do it,” said Aoki.
“I’m a much better fighter now than when we first met, and I won’t make the same mistakes I made in the last fight. I’m in the best shape of my career and I can’t wait to show it to the world.”
If Aoki can defeat Folayang and in decisive fashion, he will no doubt blow the roof off the arena.
The Japanese fans who line the rafters at the Ryogoku Kokugikan with chants of “Ganbatte! Ganbatte, Aoki-san!” will no doubt lend Aoki the energy he needs to complete his mission. A victory for the Japanese stalwart will effectively kickstart his second reign as ONE Lightweight World Champion.
“This is such an important bout because it is happening right in front of the Japanese people. I owe everything to my country and I want to make the Japanese fans proud. It is an honor to showcase my skills in Tokyo, and I have waited a long time to return home and perform,” said Aoki.
“This excites me to no end, and I am motivated to give my best. I can’t wait for the cage doors to close.”
Nevertheless, this is hands down the most significant bout in Aoki’s career thus far. He is already considered perhaps the greatest Asian mixed martial artist in history. A victory over Folayang will further add to that legacy.
“Being champion means you are the best in the world. For a guy who loves competing like me, this is the ultimate achievement,” Aoki concluded.
“I want to prove once again that I am the best lightweight in the world. I’m taking on the champion right now, and I’m coming for the belt.”