Shinya Aoki looked back to something approaching his brilliant best at ONE: ‘Unbreakable’. He submitted James Nakashima in the opening round and afterwards the Japanese lightweight was asked who he would like to face first.

Aoki was somewhat noncommittal but he did come up with a slightly surprising suggestion stating that he would be interested in a bout with UFC veteran Yoshihiro Akiyama,

“If it’s a Japanese opponent I would like to face Akiyama. There is no-one particular that I want to face, I just want an offer soon,” he said.

Aoki was characteristically humble when asked about the submission win,

”I was just lucky, it was a lucky win. I was expecting a tougher fight, I was surprised that it was so quick that is why I feel it was lucky,” he said though a translator.

Still motivated

Asked about what motivated him after 46 wins the veteran said that he is still in love with the sport,

“There is not much left for me to accomplish but what motivates me is that I love the sport, there is no other thing that is more stimulating than martial arts.”

He does not seem in a rush to rematch Christian Lee but reiterated he wants to fight again as soon as possible,

“If I get the title fight I will do it but the most important thing is to fight again soon,” he said.

Always original

After the fight Aoki was in tears. It was a familiar sight to anyone who has been following the 37 year old’s career and he thinks being emotional is part of his appeal,

“I feel that Shinya Aoki is someone original who always shows emotion in each fight. Before I go into the fight I am frightened but once its done I feel relieved, that’s when I feel happiness.”

Aoki landed some solid kicks to the body of Nakashima and was asked about this strategy by a Japanese journalist,

“James has good takedown defence and good wrestling so I thought it was important to have a strong middle kick and a good stance,” he replied.

New trick

He was also asked about the submission and says that he learned it from Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki,

“At the end of 2020 I learned this (neck crank) from Mr Inoki and I showed it in this fight.”

When how this ranked against some of the most famous submissions of his career Aoki was not forthcoming,

“Each submission I have a different feeling about so it is hard to rank them.”

Just a number

He was wearing a t-shirt with the phrase ‘age is just a number’ displayed. Aoki was happy to discuss his choice of clothing in a bit more detail.

Aoki feels he is delaying the ageing process by continuing to compete in MMA and points out that it is not really a suitable profession for an old man,

“I am 37 but my age doesn’t matter (because) I am in the cage with my pants on and my shirt off and I am punching someone. What sort of grownup does that?”