Shinya Aoki will ride a seven-fight winning streak into his latest title defense. | Photo Courtesy: One Championship
Shinya Aoki refuses to talk trash anymore.
Maybe he thinks he is above it, maybe it was the birth of his son a few years ago or maybe he believes it is beneath a champion. Perhaps he wants to let his fighting do the talking or perhaps restrictions have been put in place by his camp or organization. Whatever the reason, Aoki has come a long way from his brutal, arm-breaking hammerlock submission on Mizuto Hirota in 2009, when he followed his victory with a crude gesture to his wounded opponent. His actions led to his dismissal from his teaching job at Paraestra Kasai.
As he left the outrageous behavior behind him, Aoki has allowed his skills to come to the forefront. He has not tasted defeat in more than three years, having rattled off seven straight victories, six of them submissions. The 32-year-old Evolve MMA rep will put his One Championship lightweight crown on the line against Koji Ando in the One Championship 27 main event on Friday at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore.
These days, Aoki conveys nothing but respect for his opponents and seems content to tackle whatever challenge the One Championship organization places before him.
“I compete in MMA because of my love and passion for the sport,” Aoki told Sherdog.com. “It doesn’t really matter who is on the opposite side of the cage.”
Aoki has avoided being lured into verbal exchanges with other fighters, including Bellator MMA champion Will Brooks, who tried to stir up trouble via Twitter in 2014. The Japanese submission ace was unfazed by the attempt: “Doesn’t really bother me.”
Only current Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweights Eddie Alvarez and Gilbert Melendez have beaten Aoki in the last five years. Yet, the “Tobikan Judan” has expressed no desire to avenge those losses and chose not to sign with the UFC in 2013.
“I don’t really think about the past, but should there be a chance to have a rematch, I would accept it,” Aoki said. “With regards to the UFC, I believe they know how happy I am competing in Asia’s largest MMA promotion, One Championship. I am the current One lightweight world champion, and I’m looking to defend and compete inside the One cage for a long time.”
For now, Aoki remains focused on defending his title one fight at a time against the contenders One Championship throws his way.
“My focus at the moment is entirely on my upcoming fight against Ando,” he said. “He has been creating waves inside the One Championship cage ever since his promotional debut. He’s good on the feet and on the ground, as well, but I’ve been training with high-level strikers and Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners every single day at Evolve MMA, so I know that I am ready for this fight.”
Aoki dabbled successfully in the featherweight division in 2013; and while many want to see him pursue promotional gold in a second weight class, he has no current plans to do so. Aoki seems content with his situation at 155 pounds.
“I have fought once at featherweight already, but you never know the future,” he said. “I’m happy at lightweight, but should One Championship like me to compete there again, I would consider it. To me, success is all about being happy doing what you are doing. Professionally for me, that is being able to compete in MMA for the past years and for the upcoming ones, too.”