MANILA, Philippines—Eduard Folayang and Shinya Aoki have faced off thrice in the past to create a memorable rivalry inside the ONE Championship ring.
Nearly two years after their latest encounter, Aoki wants to run it back against the former Team Lakay member.
The reason for the 39-year-old’s interest in fighting the Filipino competitor once more is simple: to be the best you have to beat the best and for Aoki, Folayang is “number one.”
“Definitely, he’s no. 1 on my list… I spent five years fighting him. For me, Eduard is special because he’s the only guy I’ve fought three times,” said the Japanese fighter, who recently trained with Team Lakay in the Baguio.
To make matters more interesting for the trilogy’s extension, Aoki said he wants to do the fourth frenzy in Folayang’s own home country.
“We’ve done it twice in Singapore and once in Japan, so I think it’s fair to do it in the Philippines. I think it makes sense from a business standpoint. More than anything else, I feel that way as well.”
Aoki is currently up 2-1 against the Filipino fighting legend inside the MMA ring after breaking their deadlock in 2021 via submission from an armbar lock in the first round.
The Japanese combat fighter was actually down 0-1 in the trilogy before their 2019 bout where Aoki would choke out Folayang via tight arm-triangle choke in round one as well.
The rivalry started in 2016 when Folayang stopped Aoki in the third round to gain the lightweight strap.
“The words we exchanged in the Circle right after the last match we had two years ago was ‘one more,’” Aoki shared.
Although having several doors open after the Team Lakay exodus, Folayang has not signed with other promotions like Evolve MMA which leaves the door for Aoki vs Folayang 4 wide open.
“Right now, I’m a ronin. I’m thankful that I get a lot of invitations from friends in the industry. It’s flattering, to be honest. Everyone wants to help out and understands the goal that I want to achieve.”