Shinya Aoki hasn’t won every bout he’s been in, but he has embraced the challenge throughout his martial arts career, and he’s earned the right to be called a legend.
The 35-year-old Japanese submission specialist has had 50 professional martial arts bouts, and he’s already had one reign as the ONE Lightweight World Champion. During that reign, Aoki successfully defended his title three times.
Despite his relative youth for the sport, Shinya Aoki has been competing for 15 years. Over the course of his career, Aoki has competed in a variety of promotions across the globe. During his travels, he’s faced well-known martial artists in a number of weight classes. Part of understanding Aoki’s value to the world of martial arts is about gaining a grasp of the challenges he’s embraced.
How many lightweights have battled Fedor Emelianenko, arguably the greatest heavyweight in martial arts history, in an open-weight match? Aoki has done that.
How about taking on undefeated former ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren? Aoki has done that too. What about defeating “The Underground King” Eddie Alvarez? Yes, he’s done that as well. Aoki even defeated another martial arts pioneer and legend in his countryman Kazushi Sakuraba aka “The Gracie Hunter.”
We could go on for a while pointing out Aoki’s accomplishments and experiences, but perhaps the best way to truly appreciate his spirit as a competitor is to examine the times he has seemingly revived his career when it appeared he might be finished.
After consecutive losses to Hayato Sakurai and Emelianenko in 2009, Aoki rebounded with three straight victories over opponents with a combined record of 51-12-2–all before the end of the year. Aoki lost a tough unanimous decision to Gilbert Melendez in 2010 only to reel off seven consecutive wins over the course of the next 17 months.
Most recently, Aoki was slammed with a tough three-fight losing streak. In the span of a year from late 2016 to 2017, Aoki lost his ONE lightweight title to Eduard Folayang via third-round KO. Next, he was submitted by world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu star Garry Tonon. Finally, Aoki was stopped in the first round by Askren via punches when he attempted to move up to 170 pounds.
For a martial artist with so many bouts under his belt, who had already accomplished so much in his career, it would have been easy to look at this skid as a sign to retire.
However, the ever-defiant Shinya Aoki has done nothing of the sort. He has since come back with two wins this year, including a statement-making first-round finish of Shannon Wiratchai in July at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS. No matter the obstacle, it appears Aoki just won’t break.
Now here we are, a little over two months after the win over Wiratchai, and Aoki has a chance to put himself right back in the title conversation at lightweight if he can beat Ting. That won’t be an easy task as Ting has proven himself to be a tough opponent. He is six years Aoki’s junior and riding his own impressive three-bout win streak.
That said, two of the four losses in his career have come by way of submission. That potential weakness may play into Aoki’s hands.
As submission specialists go, few are on his level. In fact, 25 of his 41 wins have come by submission, and you can bet he’d love to gain an advantageous position against Ting so that he can have his hand raised again. We’ve seen it before from Aoki, so should we be surprised if he rises once again? It seems that we’d be foolish to doubt him.
Do you think Shinya Aoki can pull off a win at ONE: KINGDOM OF HEROES this weekend?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/5/2018.