ONE FC’s roster has improved exponentially in the last year with the addition of numerous established stars, but reigning lightweight champion Shinya Aoki remains the face of the promotion.
Aoki is ONE FC’s most established Asian star and is riding a six-fight winning streak, but despite the emergence of contenders to his 155-pound crown, such as Koji Ando, Lowen Tynanes, and Adrian Pang, he is considering dropping down a division in search of a super fight.
“If ONE FC want me to fight Bibiano Fernandes at 145 pounds then I think that would be a very attractive fight. He is a champion and I respect him.”
As well as being ONE FC champions in their respective divisions, Aoki and Fernandes also hold the equivalent belts with Dream. The Brazilian also claimed Grand Prix wins in both the 135-pound and 145-pound divisions prior to the Japanese promotion’s demise.
This impressive collection of collective hardware makes them two of the most decorated fighters in the history of Asian MMA and Aoki, who dropped down to 145 pounds to face Cody Stevens last year, confirms he would be willing to do it again in order to face Fernandes.
“I do not want to give up my belt, but if ONE FC allows me to go to 145 pounds again for one fight before I defend my title next then I am happy to face Fernandes. Maybe he would be the best BJJ fighter I have ever faced in MMA, but Vitor Ribeiro was also a great fighter.”
With the competition in ONE FC’s 155-pound division heating up, Aoki won’t be short of options in 2014, but before the year is out he still has business to attend to in Japan, where he will be fighting for the eighth New Year’s Eve in a row.
Aoki has been in action on Dec. 31 every single year since he submitted Joachim Hansen with a Gogoplata at Pride: Shockwave in 2006 and this tradition is being kept alive by IGF, who have matched him with Yuki Yamamoto.
Aoki signed a long-term contract with ONE FC in 2012 and is grateful to the promotion for giving him permission to fight in his homeland.
“It is a special thing to fight for me in Japan because I want to show my family a fight and I want my son to see the work of father. I thank ONE FC very much for making it happen; ONE FC is the leader of Asian MMA.”
He mounted the first defense of his ONE FC title in August and a match-up that many predicted would be extremely problematic lasted less than three minutes, as Aoki easily took Kamal Shalorus down and choked him out.
It was an extremely impressive performance, but the 31-year-old still believes he has plenty of room for improvement.
“I have not been yet satisfied with a performance. At Evolve MMA, there are trainers who have had 300 Muay Thai fights or 300 BJJ matches or 300 wrestling matches, but I have had less than 50 MMA fights, so I have not reached this level yet. Perhaps if I fought every month like a Muay Thai fighter does I would be able to put in a high-level performance.”
As one of ONE FC’s top earners, Aoki doesn’t need to fight every month, but he is hoping the opportunity will eventually arrive to represent his current employer on home soil.
“I expect ONE FC will go to Tokyo eventually and I am waiting for this moment, but it is a difficult time for MMA in Japan and I understand I must be patient.”
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