Shinya Aoki and Yoshihiro Akiyama don’t like each other. The animosity seems to come largely from the former who explains that he has held a grudge for over a decade,

“The story starts from a connection in 2008, but the situation then and the situation now is completely different. Our positions and status are different too, so I’m not too concerned with that. Simply, there was a promotion called Dream. Within that, I didn’t like when there was someone who only thought of themselves.”

Aoki fought 16 times for Dream and was the promotion’s lightweight champion. Akiyama only appeared on two cards but he won both fights and earned a UFC contract on the back of those performances.

Shinya Aoki attempts a flying guillotine on Eduard Folayang

Real deal

It isn’t clear exactly what Akiyama did to upset Aoki but the former ONE Championship lightweight title holder hints that the veteran was reluctant to accept certain fights,

“Akiyama says he’s an active fighter, but there were times when he wasn’t fighting. He doesn’t like it much, I think. I’ve been doing it because I like it.”

He also accuse Akiyama of being obsessed with his appearance and describes his ONE: ‘X’ opponent as ‘superficial’,

“Akiyama is this cool-looking guy. It’s either you become cool based on the amazing things you do or accomplish, or be cool with the lavish things in life. I find this interesting. It’s what you are based on, I suppose. It’s quite superficial. Even if you dress up or act cool, in the end, there is only the real deal.”

Shinya Aoki finishes James Nakashima with a rear naked choke

Two faced

At ONE: ‘X’ this Saturday the two rivals face off and Aoki will be looking to show that he is ‘the real deal’,

“When it comes to something real, you’ll see the difference between Shinya Aoki, who only speaks harsh truths and is living in a real world, with those who only sugarcoat stuff.”

The two had an altercation at Road to ONE (Sexyama Edition) and Aoki admits that Akiyama got under his skin,

“Speaking of my performance at Road to ONE I was kind of upset because Akiyama hadn’t made a decision to fight me or not. I think Akiyama is two-faced.”

Shinya Aoki celebrates a win

Real animosity

Traditionally ONE Championship fighters have shown a lot of respect for one another but this fight is clearly an exception to the rule. There is real animosity between these two men and Aoki is looking to expose Akiyama when the face off in the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Saturday.

But he is also aware of the significance of the occasion with two of the best Japanese fighters of the century facing off. And Aoki knows he will have to cast aside his feelings for his opponent in order to focus on getting the right result,

“This match will be a part of Japanese history. I don’t really care about how I win, as long as I win.”