Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki is on the verge of reclaiming his coveted gold-plated strap, but in order for the Japanese legend to obtain the sought-after title shot, he must defeat one of the most talented competitors in ONE Championship’s bustling 77.1-kilogram weight class.
Aoki is set to lock horns with ex-world title contender Ev “E.T.” Ting on the undercard of ONE: KINGDOM OF HEROES, which takes place at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand on Saturday, 6 October.
The bout will serve as a ONE Lightweight World Title eliminator, with the winner moving on to face the victor of the championship clash between former titleholder Eduard Folayang and Singaporean contender Amir Khan in early 2019.
Aoki has made an excellent start to 2018, defeating one-time featherweight kingpin Marat “Cobra” Gafurov in a grappling super-match in January and then returning to mixed martial arts competition.
The 35-year-old Japanese submission wizard cemented his position as one of the division’s top contenders with a spectacular first-round submission of Rasul Yakhyaev last May before scoring a stunning first-round stoppage victory over Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai two months later.
When asked for his assessment on his last two outings on the ONE Championship stage, Aoki only responded in deadpan manner: “I really didn’t do anything special in preparation for those fights. 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,” he added.
Known by his moniker “Tobikan Judan” or “The Grandmaster of Flying Submissions” due to his spectacular submission triumphs, Aoki believes that he is certainly in a league of his own as a martial artist.
Aoki expects a lopsided encounter with Ting due to the stark difference in talent and skill set.
“It will probably not match up at all. It will be a one-side game,” he quipped.
Aoki is widely regarded as the most dominant lightweight in Asia for the better part of the last decade as he has had 50 professional bouts and strutted his wares in various mixed martial arts promotions such as the ONE Championship, DREAM, Bellator, Strikeforce and Shooto.
In addition, being a champion is synonymous to Aoki’s name as he has a lengthy list of accolades in both mixed martial arts and submission wrestling.
Aoki lauded his 15-year prizefighting experience and considers it as an advantage over Ting, who turned pro as a mixed martial artist in April 2011.
“It’s my biggest advantage over him. I have been fighting ever since 2003. I have experienced losses and fought in unstable environment,” he explained.
Although Aoki is entering the scheduled three-round lightweight tiff as the clear favorite to win due to his impressive curriculum vitae, he received numerous warnings about Ting’s explosive style.
Since unsuccessfully challenging for the ONE Lightweight World Championship in April 2017, Ting has been on a tear, winning three-straight bouts under the bout’s umbrella.
The 29-year-old Malaysia-born Kiwi has used a high-volume striking attack to knock out former welterweight champion Nobutatsu Suzuki in August 2017 before defeating top contenders such as Ariel Sexton and Koji Ando by decision.
Facing a formidable stand-up practitioner in Ting, Aoki believes that he has an ace up his sleeve.
“I am a far more superior competitor than him. I have the goods to get it done on Saturday. Everyone will see,” he declared.
“I have been in the cage or ring with many good fighters and train with world champions, both on the ground and standing up. So I feel comfortable with all aspects of the sport,” Aoki continued.
Even if it appears that he has nothing more to prove in mixed martial arts, Aoki revealed that his mission to regain the ONE Lightweight World Championship is what keeps him hungry to compete at the highest level.
“I want the title back. It’s no secret. I am going to get it back. It will be mine again very soon,” he ended.