ONE: Shinya Aoki says he’d enjoy a rematch with fellow former champ Eduard Folayang
Santino Honasan on Jul 23, 2018 01:33 PM
"I am open to compete against anyone or rematch anyone. If ONE Championship wants me to face Eduard I would enjoy that."
Nearly two years removed from losing ONE Championship Lightweight World Title, Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki finds himself back on the path towards championship glory, and the next stop on his journey brings him to Manila at ONE: Reign of Kings, Friday, July 27th at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In a battle of top lightweight contenders, Aoki meets Thai MMA star Shannon ’OneShin’ Wiratchai, with the winner moving one step closer to a lightweight world title shot.
And while another run at the world title could be on the line, the Evolve MMA star says that his focus in the lead up to the fight will be his own progress and no one else’s.
“I approach all my fights the same. I focus on myself, and my game.” Aoki shared with ABS-CBN Sports via email. “I train hard with all my training partners and coaches, whether its in Japan or at Evolve MMA in Singapore, to improve all aspects of my game to prepare myself for the bout ahead. I am confident in my abilities and am looking forward to this bout.”
Adding another layer to the upcoming Aoki versus Wiratchai fight will be the fact that the Thai star revealed that he looks up to the Japanese legend.
“I have been competing for a long time now so it is interesting that I am competing against someone who used to watch me growing up. When I compete I go out there to do my best as a martial artist, if my performances inspire someone to start martial arts that’s just an extra bonus.”
“Shannon is a good strong opponent, I look forward to competing against him.” Aoki added.
If Aoki can defeat Wiratchai in Manila, it’ll mark his first string of back-to-back wins since 2015, definitely a step in the right direction.
From 2016 to 2017, Aoki went through quite a rough patch that was kickstarted with him dropping his ONE title to Eduard Folayang in Singapore, followed a grappling superfight loss to Garry Tonon and a one-sided beatdown from then-ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren.
Momentum shifted to Aoki’s favor in the start of 2018, as he submitted fellow former ONE champion Marat Gafurov in another grappling superfight, before getting back in the win column in MMA, choking out Rasul Yakhyaev in just one round back in May.
“As a professional athlete, winning and losing is all a part of the journey.” Aoki said of his struggles and his recent run of success. “As a martial artist, all I focus on is continuing to improve and learn from the past and improve my game in all aspects. Improving a little bit every day is what martial arts is about. This is the mindset I’ve always had.”
Speaking of Eduard Folayang, Aoki now is on the same boat as the Filipino MMA star, both former champions looking to regain their place at the top of the division.
Folayang will also be fighting on ONE’s Reign of Kings card in Manila, against unbeaten Russian Aziz Pahrudinov. Much like Aoki, a win for Folayang moves him one step closer to another shot at the championship.
If everything goes according to plan for these two former champions, their paths could cross once more, and that’s something that Aoki says he wouldn’t mind.
“I am open to compete against anyone or rematch anyone. If ONE Championship wants me to face Eduard I would enjoy that. My job is to train hard to improve all aspects of my game for whoever I am facing.”
Before anything else however, Aoki and Folayang will have to take care of business come fight night.
For Aoki, who is, by all means, a proven legend in MMA, the learning never stops, and it’s this feeling of hunger for more that keeps the former champ motivates.
“I never think of my accomplishments as enough. Every bout is a new challenge for me to take on, so I push myself to be able to handle anything that comes my way. I am always training and learning new techniques so my game is constantly improving. The martial arts journey never ends.” said Aoki.
Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki meets top contender Shannon Wiratchai in a lightweight contest with massive title implications at ONE: Reign of Kings on Friday, July 27th at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Catch it LIVE starting at 8:30 PM on ABS-CBN S+A channel 23!
*Special thanks to Aliya Anwar of Evolve MMA.