Shinya Aoki’s legend continues in Singapore
ONE Championship on Nov 24, 2017 11:14 AM
“It brings me pleasure. It is self-expression, and the only way I can express myself. That is why I think it is so fun.” - Shinya Aoki
From a reluctant law enforcement officer to champion of the world, it’s been a remarkable journey for Japanese martial arts legend Shinya Aoki.
The former ONE Lightweight World Champion returns to action in the main event of ONE: IMMORTAL PURSUIT.
He will partake in a historic bout against undefeated ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben “Funky” Askren, and it is a a battle between two of the most respected martial artists to ever step into the ONE Championship cage.
It marks the occasion of Askren’s final bout before retirement, but while many will focus on the American’s remarkable career heading into the bout, Aoki’s career is every bit as remarkable.
With 47 bouts to his name, Aoki is the antithesis of some of martial arts’ biggest stars today. While some choose to use brash personalities and trash talk to build their names, Aoki has quietly gone about his work to become one of the very best martial artists on the planet.
“I was a pretty solitary child,” reveals Aoki.
“I got into a lot of fights with other kids. I was a normal kid. I did not do anything special as a child. Just judo.”
That judo was the spark that started a passion for martial arts that lives on to this day. After first putting on a gi at just 10 years of age, Aoki has been involved in martial arts ever since.
He competed nationally and internationally in judo, earning his black belt and becoming a top-five collegiate judoka, with his aggressive pursuit of submission finishes his calling card.
It led to him being named “Tobikan Judan”, or “The Grand Master of Flying Submissions”, a moniker that has remained appropriate throughout his martial arts career.
His love for submissions soon saw him branch out from “the gentle way”, and take on other martial arts disciplines, as he looked to broaden his horizons and test himself in new, more competitive fields.
Back then, Aoki was a university graduate from Waseda University, and while his martial arts career was progressing under the tutelage of Yuki Nakai at the Paraestra Gym, the sport wasn’t paying the bills. So he had to pursue a career in the working world, and eventually found himself, almost by default, in the police force.
“I did not particularly want to be a police officer,” he admitted.
“I just did it because I did not have any other career options.”
It seemed an unfulfilling career in law enforcement was on the cards, but then the sport of martial arts experienced an explosion in popularity in the mid-2000s. Aoki decided to take the plunge, and quit the police force to launch into a full-time professional career.
It proved a wise decision. Aoki became a Japanese martial arts icon, winning the Shooto Welterweight Championship in 2006, the WAMMA Lightweight Championship in 2008, and the DREAM Lightweight Championship in 2009.
Then, four years later, he reached legendary status when he defeated Kotetsu “No Face” Boku to become the ONE Lightweight World Champion in April 2013.
His remarkable nine-fight win streak was eventually ended by Eduard Folayang last November, but martial arts has never been purely about championship belts, as he explained.
“Honestly, it is not really about winning or becoming number one in the world,” he said.
“It brings me pleasure. It is self-expression, and the only way I can express myself. That is why I think it is so fun.”
Now he plans on having more fun when he returns to the ONE Championship cage to face Askren, a prodigious wrestler with an unbeaten record and a dominant ground game.
With the prospect of becoming a two-weight ONE World Champion offering a tantalising prize for the Japanese star, it’s just the sort of challenge 34-year-old Aoki will relish.
It’s one he says will deliver on the pre-fight excitement, as two of the sport’s elite grapplers get set to do battle at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 24 November.
“It is the most intense bout to happen in 10 years,” he stated.
“I think people understand that. It will be a historic match. You will miss out if you do not see it.”
ONE Championship: Immortal Pursuit comes to you live from the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, November 24th.
Catch all the exciting MMA action on S+A channel 23 starting at 8:30 PM!
This article was first published in the ONE CHAMPIONSHIP Website. Photos courtesy of ONE Championship.
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