The search to find someone who doesn’t like Sage Northcutt is over! The American is regarded as being one of the nicest men in MMA but Shinya Aoki looks set to put that reputation to the test.

They faced off in Tokyo this week ahead of their lightweight match at ONE 165. It is set to be Aoki’s final fight for the promotion but the 40 year old has definitely not mellowed with age.

He refused to shake Northcutt’s hand at the press conference. The UFC veteran was left hanging by Aoki in an extremely awkward moment:


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Final fight

Aoki made his ONE Championship debut in 2012. It is not clear why this will be his final fight for the promotion but it seems unlikely that the 40 year old is about to retire.

Aoki is on a poor run of form. He has lost his last four ONE Championship bouts although two of them have been submission grappling matches.

He is the two time ONE Championship lightweight champion. Aoki held the belt from 2013 until 2016 and then briefly recaptured it in 2019 before losing to Christian Lee.

Top earner

Having been on the roster for 11 years Aoki is likely to be one of the top earners and it is possible ONE Championship simply decided to allow the 40 year old to fight out his contract.

Northcutt’s circumstances are completely different. He has fought twice in the five years he has been on the roster after getting badly injured by Cosmo Alexandre and then suffering long term complications due to Covid-19.

Northcutt is only 27 so his best years could conceivably be ahead of him. He will be looking to ruin Aoki’s final ONE Championship fight by beating the Japanese veteran in Tokyo.

The bad blood between the two men can probably be dated back to a social media exchange in 2021:


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Difficult to dislike

Northcutt might seem like a difficult man to dislike but Aoki has clearly found a way. Hostility towards upcoming opponents appears to be just part of the process for the former Dream lightweight champion.

It will be very interesting to see what the future holds for Aoki. He has fought for Rizin before and would surely be an attractive option for the Japanese promotion once he enters free agency.

Before that Aoki will be looking to register what would be his first win since 2019. With the hostility that exists between the two men and the pressure that comes from fighting in Japan  he will be desperate to secure that long awaited victory and finish his ONE Championship career on a high.