Mixed martial arts icon Shinya Aoki is just two wins away from recapturing the belt he once owned.
The former ONE Lightweight World Champion faces fellow top contender Ev “E.T.” Ting at ONE: KINGDOM OF HEROES at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand on Saturday, 6 October.
The Japanese superstar knows that victory will thrust him into a title bout against the winner of the upcoming World Title clash between Eduard Folayang and Amir Khan.
Aoki’s career has been built on the back of an elite-level grappling game that has seen him claim 25 of his 41 wins by submission, but he also demonstrated he has the ability to finish contests with ground strikes, too.
His clinical finish of lightweight contender Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai is the most recent example, which followed a finish with his bread and butter, his jiu-jitsu, as he submitted Rasul Yakhyaev via triangle choke in his previous bout.
“I really didn’t do anything special in preparation for those fights,” the 35-year-old says, matter-of-factly.
“There is an element of luck in these things, certainly. You cannot excel in your job unless luck is on your side, but I am simply doing what I do best.”
Aoki may be considered a veteran after his long career, but his passion for learning and improving as a martial artist seems to be as strong as ever.
As well as his two recent wins under mixed martial arts rules, he also accepted – and won – a special Grappling Super-Match with former ONE Featherweight Champion Marat Gafurov at the beginning of 2018.
Now he will face in-form Kiwi Ting, who knocked out former ONE Welterweight World Champion Nobutatsu Suzuki last August, then followed up with decision wins over top contenders Ariel Sexton and Koji Ando to build an impressive three-bout winning run.
In contrast to Aoki’s main technical strength, Ting’s advantage undoubtedly lies in the striking realm. However, Aoki is typically unruffled by the momentum of his opponent heading into the contest.
“I do not see any value in talking about the strengths and weaknesses of my opponent, and how I plan on fighting him,” he states.
A man of few words but many victories, Aoki is ready to once again challenge for the honour he first won back in 2013.
The impression one always seem to get from “Tobikan Judan” is that he is driven not by accolades or World Titles. Instead, his inspiration comes from the martial arts themselves.
“Fighting,” he says, “is how I express myself.”