Shinya Aoki has spoken frankly and honestly about his ambitions and aspirations as he comes towards the end of this career. The 39 year old lost to an opponent half his age at ONE 157 last weekend.
That was in a submission grappling bout so the result won’t appear on his MMA record. Being beaten by teenager Kade Ruotolo has not deterred Aoki at all and at this stage of his career he knows exactly who he is and what he wants,
“I want to do everything, be it grappling or MMA. I will never decline a fight offer I will always accept new challenges. This is my style.”
Shinya Aoki's got the fighter spirit 💯
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) May 24, 2022
Aoki is currently on 47 wins. He has not been competing regularly in MMA and has only managed one or two fights per year since the start of the pandemic.
He has participated in three submission grappling contests in the last two years and also agreed to a bout with Gordon Ryan although it fell through. Aoki says at this point simply he doesn’t care how many wins he has on his MMA record,
“I don’t really care how many wins I have whether its 47 or 50. I just want to stay motivated every single day and put on good performances.”
ONE Championship has been aggressively expanding its roster of submission grapplers. In the last few weeks the promotion has added Renato Canuto, Jessa Khan and Tainan Dalpra to the roster.
Leo Vieira was also appointed as the vice president of grappling, a role that did not previously exist. Canuto competes at around the same weight as Aoki while Dalpra is probably slightly too big to be a potential opponent.
— ONE Championship (@ONEChampionship) May 20, 2022
It looks likely that there will be submission grappling contests on every single ONE Championship card. It must be an appealing career route for Aoki who has taken his fair share of damage during two decades of MMA.
He has always shown a willingness to compete under different rulesets and in different weight classes. He lost to Ben Askren in a welterweight title fight in 2017 and was knocked out by Yuichiro Nagashima in a mixed rules fight in 2010.
ONE Championship would go on to put on a mixed rules fight of its own 12 years later. Demetrious Johnson stopping Rodtang Jitmuangnon in the second round earlier this year.
So Aoki is not targeting a 50th MMA win although he looks on track to get it. He is not even talking about challenging for the ONE Championship lightweight title again despite being ranked at #3 after his second round stoppage loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama.
All the 38 year old wants to do is challenge himself. He doesn’t care about the rules, the weight or the opponent and his plan for the future is very simple,
“I will do both grappling and MMA.”