April 2, 2023

Former ONE lightweight world champion Shinya Aoki did not know what to expect when he flew to the country last week to visit rival-turned-friend Eduard Folayang in Benguet.

But he went home with his heart full and a new perspective in life. 

Aoki spent a few days with Folayang and the Team Lakay squad in their main training camp in La Trinidad, Benguet while he also trained, saw the sights, and enjoyed the food in the serene mountain towns of Baguio City. 

“There’s no speci-fic reason I came, but I thought if I come here to see Eduard and visit Team Lakay, I can feel something or I can find something,” he said. 

“That’s why I came. And now I got so much power and motivation from them.” 

On his first day, Aoki worked the mats at the Team Lakay training center, rolling with the entire crew, as he taught some valuable lessons to his newfound Filipino friends. 

The next day was more exciting. He finally experienced Team Lakay’s outdoor training sessions, running the trail of Camp John Hay in Baguio while sparring out in the wide open. 

He then went sightseeing with the squad, all the while enjoying excellent local food like pinikpikan and dinakdakan. 

“When I visited the Philippines in 2018, I didn’t realize that food is nice here. In the past few days, I had a lot of good food,” he said. 

“Maybe it’s because the people who bring me (out) to eat are nice, so I can enjoy eating here. Also, people here are really kind and nice. Maybe Manila is too busy, but the countryside has slower life so people seem nicer.” 

While he enjoyed the food and sights, what Aoki is most grateful for is how he ended up with bonding with Folayang and the entire Team Lakay family – something that looked far from possible when the two lightweight greats met for the first time in 2016. 

“I really appreciate how he treats me and how he sees me as a friend,” Aoki said. “Not only Eduard, but his teammates also showed me respect. It’s so amazing.” – ONE release