May 24, 2024

Two years after promising to visit Eduard Folayang in his training ground in Benguet, former ONE lightweight world champion Shinya Aoki made true his word when he showed up at the Team Lakay gym in La Trinidad.

Aoki, dubbed as ONE’s submission specialist, spent two days in Benguet and Baguio City where he shared his ground skills and spent time training with Team Lakay on Jan. 25 and 26.

SHINYA AOKI IN THE HOUSE — Japanese mixed martial arts legend and world-class grappler Shinya Aoki shared grappling skills to fighters of Team Lakay including his former nemesis turned close friend Eduard Folayang in La Trinidad, Benguet on Jan. 26. In turn, Team Lakay, through coach Mark Sangiao shared to Aoki, former ONE lightweight world champion, the striking techniques of his wards who are also former world champions. — ONE Championship photo

“I believe that Team Lakay could improve more after learning this kind of technique. Even if they think they are already mature, I believe they can grow all the way if they learn new things,” Aoki said through his interpreter.

He said though there is nothing new with the technique that he taught, the team needs to focus on the specific details on grappling which would help them grow as world-class mixed martial arts fighters.

Team Lakay Chair Mark Sangiao said he was pleasantly surprised with Aoki’s visit but appreciated it nonetheless. The Japanese fighter was joined by other Team Lakay fighters, who are also former world champions.

Aoki’s first impression of Baguio City and Benguet was that it would be noisy like Manila, but he ended up enjoying the calmness of the province.

Team Lakay treated Aoki to the different tourist spots near the gym, as well as the food where he tried native delicacies.

“I tried so many dishes and they are surprisingly yummy, I really enjoyed the taste,” he said.

Sangiao said Aoki’s visit was a display of sportsmanship and camaraderie, which they are promoting as a team and in which, ONE Championship is also guided by as a promotion. 

Aoki said he is open to fight Folayang, if the fans would want to see them in the ring again, but it would be the last bout for both of them.

The pair first met in 2016 when Folayang snatched the gold-plated strap from Aoki in Singapore via third-round technical knockout. Three years later, a rematch happened when the Japanese legend emerged victorious via first-round submission.

Their third bout happened in Singapore in 2021, where Folayang was taken down early on the first round and caught in the hold of Aoki, before being submitted through armbar at the 4:20 mark of the first round.

Aoki also defeated Honorio Banario via first-round submission in their Tokyo match on Oct.13, 2019.

Ultimately, Aoki appreciates his stay with one of Asia’s top MMA teams, Team Lakay and only has good things to say to them.

“All the Team Lakay guys are very young and have the hunger. They want to grow up more and improve themselves, I really feel that,” Aoki said. – Ofelia C. Empian