Honorio “The Rock” Banario will face arguably the biggest hometown favorite of all the 44 athletes at the biggest martial arts event of all time.
The martial arts legend showed what he is capable of with the backing of an entire arena of fans in March when he put on a near-perfect performance to submit Banario’s teammate, Eduard Folayang, at ONE: A NEW ERA.
The Evolve representative will be confident he can get a repeat result against another Team Lakay representative at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, but “The Rock” is certain he can spoil the party.
If Aoki has a weakness, it is powerful strikers, and the former ONE Featherweight World Champion possesses an abundance of knockout force in his fists.
Ahead of the toughest assignment of his career, the 30-year-old from Benguet breaks down how he has prepared to defend the submission attack of “Tobikan Judan,” and how he plans to pull off a signature victory.
ONE: Championship: The last time Shinya Aoki was in Japan, he finished your teammate. How much is that a motivation for you?
Honorio Banario: This will be the first time I will go up against the legend of Shinya Aoki. He was already a World Champion even before I started training in martial arts.
Going up against him is already an achievement for me. I am motivated to do everything I can to defeat him, but not because I want to avenge my teammate. I want to show that my skills are right up there with a legend like Aoki and be considered as a world-class talent.
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ONE: The crowd will certainly be wild for Shinya because it is his home country. How much of a factor would the crowd be for you, especially if the cheers are for your opponent?
HB: Back here in the Philippines, our crowd also supports us all-out during our matches.
I know he will have the same crowd support in front of his home crowd, so I want to tune that out so I can focus on our match and execute our game plan properly.
Against a legend like Shinya, I need to be flawless in executing our game plan because he’s known to finish his matches quickly. We need to let him play our game instead of us playing into his.
ONE: In the Philippines, the noise is all to give you confidence. Here, it’s going to be for your opponent. From previous bouts against hometown favorites, does it affect you at all?
HB: When I step into the Circle, it really doesn’t matter to me. My years of experience helped me cope with it, and now it feels normal.
ONE: Do you feel any pressure as the match draws closer?
HB: There’s more of excitement. I’m visualizing how the start is going to be, how I’ll handle Shinya coming at me and what my first move will be.
Of course, when I’m actually in Tokyo, I might feel the pressure. Who knows? Usually, we feel it during fight week, but easily overcome it once we step into the Circle.
ONE: What do you do to overcome it?
HB: I just tune it out. I focus on what I need to do – the things I practiced, the game plan we formulated, and how I will execute all those against him.
Focusing my mind on those things gives me the confidence that helps me overcome whatever pressure I might feel.
ONE: How is the training for this match so far? Are there any new additions, or have you intensified some aspects of it?
HB: Knowing the caliber of the fighter we are up against, our training is more intense, and we’re working on getting more explosive in the bout.
During my last bout, I felt like I could have come in stronger and better conditioned, so that’s why we’re working at least twice as hard as before to reach an optimum level.
We hope to execute our game plan well to have a good shot at getting the ‘W.’ We know that there’s very little margin for error against Shinya, and just the slightest mistake will allow him to take you down to the ground where he is at his best.
ONE: We already know that he’s a grappler, but what else do you think you should watch out for against him?
HB: I think he’s working on his striking as well. In his last bout, I saw him try to go toe-to-toe with Christian Lee on the stand-up.
I don’t intend on looking at him as just a grappler, but more of a complete fighter, which is what I expect when I compete against an opponent so that there won’t be any surprises when we meet.
ONE: What do you think are the weaknesses that you can exploit?
HB: We know he’s a legend on the ground, but I believe I have a strong standup game. We would naturally bring the bout to where we are good at.
This clash of our strengths is what everyone expects to see unfold in this match, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see who strikes first and dictates where the match goes.
ONE: Folayang has faced Aoki twice, so what did he tell you about how you could beat him?
HB: He’s been helping me quite a lot in preparing for the match. He’s helping me train and pointing out Shinya’s strengths and what I could do to combat his game plan.
He helps me simulate what I could do in the match and train it repeatedly so that it becomes almost like muscle memory for me inside the Circle.
ONE: What would you say to critics who still describe your ground game as a weakness?
HB: We are constantly challenged by criticism, and it pushes us to do better and show our improvements through our actions.
We do not engage those keyboard warriors and just continue to train and work on our game so that we can speak with our actions. We are still thankful for those kinds of comments because they motivate us to train even harder.
ONE: How do you want to finish the match?
HB: Hopefully, I can execute the game plan properly and get a finish.
You have to have something big in store for someone like Shinya, because if not, he will drag you to his strengths and dominate you.
ONE: There are a lot of big names in this card, but why do you think your match against Aoki would be the one that fans will remember?
HB: I think if I am able to exploit his game, I will shock a lot of people.
Shinya is one of the greatest in the sport, and getting a finish against him will be an unbelievable achievement. Fans can watch out how I can pull that off.
ONE: CENTURY is the biggest World Championship martial arts event in history with 28 World Champions featured across various martial arts. No organization has ever promoted two full-scale World Championship events on the same day.
The Home Of Martial Arts will break new ground as it brings multiple World Title bouts, a trio of World Grand Prix Championship Finals, and several World Champion versus World Champion matches to the famous Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan on 13 October.