Few athletes will get a reception like Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki at the biggest martial arts event in history.
The former ONE Lightweight World Champion has a phenomenal record in Japan, and his compatriots at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan will expect him to feed off their support and add to his highlight reel with another signature submission.
However, the Evolve representative insists that he will not gain any extra advantage by competing in his hometown, even if he is excited by the prospect.
“I’m happy to be competing in Japan. It doesn’t matter who my opponent is,” he says
“It’s a little bit easier because I don’t have to go anywhere on an airplane, but I also like competing overseas. I don’t see [being in Tokyo] as an advantage. Whether it works as an advantage or a disadvantage is totally up to us as athletes.”
Aoki may be quick to downplay any benefit to competing on home soil, but the statistics suggest otherwise.
The Evolve representative has not lost in his homeland for more than 10 years, and he has achieved some of his most iconic wins in that time.
They include his near-perfect performance in March. At ONE: A NEW ERA, Aoki faced Banario’s teammate Eduard “Landslide” Folayang and won a highly-anticipated rematch with ease thanks to some textbook grappling.
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“The Rock” is a striking specialist with a wushu base like his training partner, but that will not impact “Tobikan Judan’s” game plan as much as you might think.
“It doesn’t make any difference at all that they’re on the same team because they are different people,” he explains.
However, he does say that he has focused on training with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts for this assignment, so it would be no surprise to see him chase a finish on the ground against a man who has suffered more than half his losses via submission.
Aoki is confident he can get the win, but he will also carry some fear into the contest, but as he explains, that is nothing new.
“I get excited every time I compete,” he says.
”More so than the opponent, [the fear] is sort of internal. I am battling against myself. I’m not scared of my opponent – it is scary to get in there and compete, to be judged.
“This bout is scary, just like always. That doesn’t change against any opponent.”
Despite his anxieties, fear is not the overriding emotion when he competes – especially when he is in the Circle in Tokyo.
Aoki still loves the thrill of battle and getting his hand raised, so he is excited to have another starring role in the world’s largest martial arts organization at ONE: CENTURY.
“It’s fun – I enjoy it more than anything else,” he adds.
“When all is said and done, there is nothing like it.”
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.