Aoki has publicly called out “Sexyama” several times in recent years, building up some friction between the pair, and at ONE Championship’s 10-year anniversary extravaganza, it culminates in a much-anticipated lightweight battle inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Akiyama, who is known for his debonaire attire and composed demeanor, has tried not to get too riled up by “Tobikan Judan’s” taunts. However, he has made it clear that Aoki’s approach has lacked the sophistication he’d expect from a senior representative of the MMA world.
“Sexyama” told ONE Championship:
“It seems like he uses the media as a filter and says things to me through it, but I can’t figure out if he’s speaking from his heart or not.”
Whether genuine or not, Aoki’s repeated callouts of the Japanese-Korean icon has done enough to draw him into a battle.
Previously, “Sexyama” was unable to answer Aoki’s earlier challenges due to injury. But now that he’s able to fully prepare, he has stepped up to the plate to make it happen.
“It’s very simple. If there is an easy path and a difficult path, I’ve been taught by my father to pick the difficult path. I can challenge myself now, so it’s my position to do that. And besides, it’s rare to be able to fight against an amazing fighter. It wouldn’t look cool to be scared of that.”
Yoshihiro Akiyama Sees Himself As The Underdog, But He Won’t Back Down
The challenge for the 46-year-old veteran will be whether or not he can still operate at the highest level against a younger rival, who enters the bout on a good run of form.
“He is a skilled fighter that was the champion for a long time and is on a winning streak, so honestly speaking, there aren’t many factors for me to win this match. There are risks, and it’s pretty clear that there is an advantage for Aoki, but that’s what makes this interesting.”
Akiyama even revealed that those around him suggested that a showdown with Aoki wasn’t the right route to take. But the Team Cloud athlete’s courage and desire to test himself overcame those doubts.
“Sexyama” wants to give it his all with the hope that he can inspire people by overcoming the colossal challenge ahead.
“Everyone says I shouldn’t do this, my trainer too. Everyone told me to turn down the offer. But when there’s someone working really hard on something, it generates this fire, and that small fire eventually becomes bigger.
“When people see this, I have expectations as to how they will feel about it. Like, ‘Damn, he’s something.’ Afterwards, if I hear things like, “Wow, that old man,” I think I’ll be happy. It will make me feel like all the hard work paid off.”
Akiyama will find out if his hard work will pay off on 26 March.