Shinya Aoki has travelled to the Philippines to train with Team Lakay. The Japanese veteran has faced Eduard Folayang three times but the former rivals now look set to become training partners.

Aoki has made the long trip to Benguet in order to train at the Team Lakay gym in La Trinidad:

Long journey

Team Lakay is located in the north of the Philippines. It takes around six hours to travel there from Manila on the bus and at this time of year it is much colder than the southern areas of the country.

Somewhat uniquely in Asian MMA the team there consists almost exclusively of local fighters. The likes of Eduard Folayang, Kevin Belingon, Joshua Pacio and Geje Eustaquio are all from the region.

It makes Team Lakay’s achievements in producing five ONE Championship champions particularly impressive. Fighters representing the camp have also won numerous titles with promotions like PXC, the URCC and Brave.

But with the camp being so far off the beaten track they have largely been reliant on the head coach and founder Mark Sangiao’s extensive knowledge of the MMA game. There definitely aren’t many BJJ black belts in Baguio so the fighters there should relish the opportunity to pick up some tricks and tips from Aoki.

Lightweight rivals

Folayang first challenged Aoki for the lightweight belt in 2016. The Filipino came into the contest as a massive underdog and it was seen as a major upset when he finished the champion with strikes in the third round.

The rematch in 2019 and Aoki got his revenge, submitting the Filipino in the third round. They fought again two years later and the outcome was exactly the same.

Aoki is 39 and Foloayang is 38 so both men are coming towards the end of their careers. They are also coming off defeats, getting stopped by much younger opponents in their most recent outings.

But both are still eager to improve and learn and don’t mind training with former opponents in order to do that. It will be interesting to see if Folayang can learn some new submissions from Aoki, and the Japanese fighter might be able to add some wushu tricks to his arsenal too.