Aoki Overcame ‘Fear’ In Folayang Win; Wants Northcutt, Akiyama Next
Aoki was pleased with the win — his fourth in a row since losing the ONE Lightweight World Championship to Christian “The Warrior” Lee in 2019 — but admits he expected a longer battle.
“I felt fear before going into the bout, but I won, so I am happy and satisfied now,” he says.
“I thought it would be tougher against Eduard, but my ground control went well and the elbows dropped with very good timing, so that was the point that favored me.”
Despite the competitive history between the former lightweight kings, “Tobikan Judan” has no animosity toward Folayang.
In fact, the legends shared a post-fight moment in the Circle, where Aoki urged his foe not to give up and suggested they could potentially clash for a fourth time in the future.
“We both had a change of opponent and he was prepared very well. I still want Eduard to continue fighting, so I wanted to say, ‘Let’s continue together, keep on fighting,’” the Japanese star reveals.
“Five years ago, I lost against him. After that, I went through some struggles and a hard time, but I got through it. I think Folayang is having the same situation. He is losing a lot, but I think he can come back again. He is a good opponent, so I hope we can fight again in the near future.”
However, Aoki has more immediate plans for his time in the Circle.
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Following his win over Folayang, the #4-ranked lightweight contender took to the mic and called out “Super” Sage Northcutt — the man he was originally slated to face at “ONE on TNT IV” — while putting a damper on any interest in a trilogy match with Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez after the American’s loss on the same bill.
“I’m not really looking at Eddie’s fights. I’m more interested in fighting young athletes. That will be more interesting for me,” the 37-year-old Tokyo resident says.
“Sage was tweeting, ‘I’m next,’ so I’m like, ‘Hey, you were sick and you couldn’t fight, so you are not supposed to say that.’
“If I get the offer, of course, I’ll do it. I only fought Folayang because Sage couldn’t do it. Whatever fight I get asked to do, I will do it.”
Aoki did not stop there. ONE’s all-time submission king also called out fellow iconic veteran Yoshihiro “Sexyama” Akiyama.
While the Japanese-South Korean judoka is not the young type of opponent that “Tobikan Judan” wants to face, he believes their home fans would relish the chance to see the two luminaries square off in Tokyo.
“Ideally, [I would like to fight] Akiyama in Japan next. [In the] Saitama Super Arena of course, or the Budokan, the best venue,” Aoki says.
“In Japan, Akiyama vs. Aoki is a huge match. I am Japanese, so I want to deliver a great bout to my people and that’s why I called him out.”
Read more: 5 Major Takeaways From ‘ONE On TNT IV’