You don’t need to be a native Japanese speaker to realize that there is no love lost between Yoshihiro Akiyama and Shinya Aoki. The two had an altercation at the recent Road to ONE event in Tokyo and will finally fight this Saturday at ONE: ‘X’.

Aoki has had plenty to say about Akiyama in the build up to the contest and the UFC veteran does not sound impressed,

“He’s got a bad mouth, I think. We’re in front of the press, and he’s old enough, so I think he could speak more appropriately. It’s like ‘who is that gangster from the countryside?’ I guess that’s him, though.”

Skilled fighter

However Akiyama is aware that Aoki is a master manipulator who knows how to sell a fight. So the 46 year old is unsure to what extent his opponent is deliberately putting on a different persona,

“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. So I don’t know if he’s stupid, but he should just get with the flow.”

While the two are unlikely to ever be friends it sounds like ‘Sexyama’ has plenty of respect for his opponent’s ability as a mixed martial artist,

“He is a skilled fighter that was the champion for a long time and is on a winning streak, so there are risks, and it’s pretty clear that there is an advantage for Aoki, but that’s what makes this interesting.”

Difficult path

Akiyama acknowledges that he is the underdog but says he has never been scared of a challenge,

“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.”

Akiyama also admits that his team were not keen on him accepting this matchup,

“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.”

Biggest motivation

Akiyama admits that his biggest motivation is to show the doubters that an ‘old man’ can still fight. And if he manages to do that he says,

“I think I’ll be happy. It will make me feel like all the hard work paid off.”