Already a legend in the sport, former ONE champ Shinya Aoki sets sights on another world title

ONE Championship on Nov 20, 2017 12:11 PM
Former ONE champ Aoki sets sights on another world title
"I am here to win another belt in ONE Championship and redeem myself in front of the world. I want to win again,” - Shinya Aoki (Photo courtesy of ONE Championship)

Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki is looking to make history as he makes his return to the ONE Championship cage on 24 November in his second home of Singapore.

Aoki has the opportunity to become the first man to defeat ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben “Funky” Askren, ruin the American’s flawless record in his retirement match, and become a rare two-division world champion.

The two global martial arts icons are scheduled to clash for Askren’s prestigious belt in the co-main event of ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT, which takes place at the state-of-the-art Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Aoki is moving back up to welterweight to face the 33-year-old American Olympic wrestler, and the pair have been training partners at Evolve MMA for several years, meaning they have shared the mats on many occasions.

The 34-year-old native of Tokyo, Japan dismissed the concerns of facing his teammate in his usual, succinct manner.

“I never turn down a match. I am here to face the best because I know that I am the best in what I do,” he stated.

It is rare when members from the same team meet inside the cage because of the bonds that are formed during exhausting training sessions, and also the logistical and emotional issues it can cause for all parties.

Both Aoki and Askren return home to their respective nations between camps to separate themselves from any attachment.

For Aoki, nothing is personal as he does not mind competing against a friend and that it is all just part of being a martial artist.

“A lot of martial artists do not like to compete against their friends,” he explained. “My opinion, however, is that as a martial artist, when you have an opponent, regardless if it is your son or your father, you must compete. That is what kind of job I believe this is. I have no reservations competing against someone on my team.”

What is abundantly clear is that the Japanese combatant has a great deal of reverence for the skills of his teammate-turned-adversary, who has gone unbeaten in 18 professional matches.

“I think he is a spectacular martial artist, and he inspires me,” Aoki said of Askren. “I was taught by him as well, even though he is younger than me, and he is an athlete I really respect.”

However, it does not equate to a complete deference from the title challenger as Aoki makes sure to note that there will not be high-fives and hugs when they stand across the cage from one another.

Askren will be aiming to end his career unbeaten by winning his final pro bout, while Aoki aims to reinsert his name into winner’s column and is determined to have ONE Championship gold around his waist once again.

Aoki’s lack of emotional attachment to Askren means he has no qualms about spoiling the party on 24 November.

“He has his own goal for his career. I have mine as well. I am here to win another belt in ONE Championship and redeem myself in front of the world. I want to win again,” he ended.

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