Shinya Aoki, upon signing with Asian fight promotion ONE FC, was immediately expected to become a centerpiece of the organization. He is one of the most popular fighters not only in Japan, but also in his era of mixed martial arts.
Prior to the fight, however, Aoki took some time away from his training to talk with MMAWeekly.com about ONE FC and his upcoming fight.
MMAWeekly.com: How important was it for you to sign with One FC, especially considering that the past few years have been very difficult for mixed martial arts’ survival in Japan?
Shinya Aoki: I decided to sign with ONE FC because I wanted to, not because I had to. ONE FC is the largest mixed martial arts promotion in Asia, and has the top fighters in Asia’s. I can compete with the best fighters here at ONE FC that I might not have had the opportunity to anymore in Japan. ONE FC is the future of MMA, not just in Asia, but in the world.
MMAWeekly.com: Although One FC keeps you fighting in Asia, the majority of your career was spent fighting in Japan. Recently you have fought in the U.S. and now in Singapore. What has it been like for you to have to go outside of Japan to seek out big fights and big opportunities?
Shinya Aoki: The fans in Singapore have been great. I was really shocked that there were so many people cheering for me the last time I fought in Singapore, and when I submitted my opponent, the entire arena went crazy. It was a moment that I would remember for the rest of my life and I’m grateful that ONE FC gave me this opportunity to fight in front of my fans.
MMAWeekly.com: Most people consider you the favorite to defeat Kotetsu Boku on April 5 to become the One FC lightweight champion. What type of expectations do you place upon yourself for the fight?
Shinya Aoki: I don’t think I’m the favorite because Kotetsu is the champion. I place the same kind of expectations on myself every fight. I fight not just for myself. I fight for my family, for my teammates from the Evolve Fight Team, who have supported me. I will go in there, and I will defeat Boku and become ONE FC Lightweight champion.
MMAWeekly.com: Although he hasn’t reached the level of fame or overall accomplishments that you have, Boku has been fighting as long as you have. What do you see as Boku’s greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses?
Shinya Aoki: I think Boku’s greatest strength was in his attitude. He is very resilient and will not break down even if things are not going his way. I think his weakness is that he will not be as good as me in grappling and I would be able to take him down and submit him.
MMAWeekly.com: Is your goal simply to win the fight and become the One FC champion, or do you have other things you wish to accomplish? What other goals do you have for the fight with Boku?
Shinya Aoki: I am going to be ONE FC champion for a very long time. I want to clean out the entire Lightweight division in ONE FC. I don’t care who they sign; I am going to beat all of them.
For the fight with Boku, my goal is to finish the fight early. I do not want to go to a judges’ decision.
MMAWeekly.com: Since moving your camp to Evolve MMA, you have worked with a wide array of the top fighters in the world. How has training at Evolve changed the way you approach fighting and what aspects of your style has it most helped?
Shinya Aoki: I have gotten a more diverse training at Evolve MMA. I can now work with Muay Thai legends and wrestling coaches and there are many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champions to train with. I feel like my striking game has improved the most. I even got my first victory by striking in my last fight. That is how confident I am now.
MMAWeekly.com: Dream was recently resurrected and you fought on the Dream NYE card. If One FC and Dream continue to work together, would you like to continue fighting on future Dream cards in Japan, and what does it mean to you to still be able to fight in Japan?
Shinya Aoki: I will always be proud to fight in front of my Japanese fans and I will never turn my back on them. I hope ONE FC holds an event in Japan so my fans there can watch me compete for the biggest promotion in Asia.
MMAWeekly.com: One FC on April 5 will be the first MMA event to be broadcast live on ESPN Star Sports. How important is it to you to be part of such a huge milestone for MMA in Asia?
Shinya Aoki: It is such an important date. ONE FC will now be broadcast live all over Asia on Star Sports and live stream around the world and many new fans will understand what MMA is about. I am in the main event and I would do my part and put on an amazing show that would leave the viewers wanting more. ONE FC is only beginning. We will become the biggest sport in the whole of Asia.