Shinya Aoki has long been one of the most talented lightweight fighters out of Japan. He reminded the MMA world of just that on Saturday, submitting former welterweight title challenger James Nakashima at ONE Championship: Unbreakable with a standing rear-naked choke (or face crank, really).
Nakashima had dropped down a division for the fight against the former ONE champ and PRIDE star. With the win, Aoki improved to 46-9, 1NC as a professional, dating back to his debut in 2003 for DEEP. He now sits on the three-fight win streak, but downplayed the victory post-fight on Saturday.
“I was just lucky, that’s it. It was a lucky win,” Aoki said, speaking via translator in a post-fight interview moderated by former ONE athete Gianni Subba.
At 37, the Japanese fighter “doesn’t really have to continue being a martial artist,” he said Saturday, noting that there’s nothing much left that he has to accomplish. Sporting a shirt proclaiming that “age is just a number,” the only thing that motivates Aoki these days, he stated, is that he “loves the sport. There’s no thing that’s more stimulating than martial arts.” And even after all these years, he’s always having fun.
As far as taking another run at the title, if he gets the opportunity, he’ll do it, Aoki promised. “But the most important thing is that I want the next offer soon,” he added. After waiting a year between fights, Aoki is hoping to make a much quicker turnaround next time out.
The standing choke on Nakashima was an impressive submission in a career full of them for Aoki. It was his eighth in ONE Championship, a record in the promotion. His 30th overall. So where does it rank? “There’s a lot of submissions, but each submission has a different feel in it,” Aoki explained. “It’s hard to rank each submission.”
“This bout, it was a really good mixed martial arts bout,” he continued. “I guess at this point, it might be one of the best submissions [in his career].” That, from a fighter who once broke Mizuto Hirota’s arm with a hammerlock.
Watch the full ONE Championship: Unbreakable post-fight interview with Shinya Aoki above.