There was a lot of talk in the build up to ONE FC: "Kings & Champions" that, regardless of the result, Shinya Aoki would move down to 145 pounds. After submitting Kotetsu Boku in the second round, he is now the lightweight champion and, while a drop down in weight remains a possibility, he says he has no plans of vacating his title at present.
"It is an honor for me to be the ONE FC champion and I am proud to bring the belt back to my team at Evolve MMA. I want to face the best fighters in the world, and if that means moving down to featherweight then I am willing to try to do that, but now I am thinking about keeping this belt and defending it many times, not giving it up," he said.
One prospective future opponent is Eddie Ng, the Hong Kong native registered his third successive win in the ONE FC lightweight division last weekend but Aoki is adamant that he would never fight someone who he considers to be a friend, as well as a training partner.
"Eddie is like family to me. I would never fight Eddie or any other Evolve MMA fighter."
There has been some speculation that, were Aoki to drop down to featherweight, he might be able to face Bibiano Fernandes in a super fight which would potentially put the reigning DREAM and ONE FC Bantamweight champion against the reigning DREAM and ONE FC lightweight champion.
Fernandes has a fight with Koets Okasaki to get past before he can call himself a ONE FC champion, but this would be potentially the biggest fight which the promotion could put on at present and Aoki refused to rule it out.
"For me, making 155 pounds is no problem and I have talked to Chatri Sityodtong and Heath Sims and the team at Evolve MMA and I think it would be possible to fight at 145 pounds. I am ready to face any fighter in the world and if ONE FC wants me to fight in a different division, I will talk to my team and we will decide if it is possible or not."
Boku won the belt by beating Aoki's Evolve MMA teammate Zorobabel Moreira and the Japanese fighter clearly relished his role as avenger. In the end, the title fight was completely one sided with the challenger dominating from start to finish and he confirmed the suspicion that it had been a comparatively easy night's work.
"The fight went according to the gameplan that Evolve set out for me. The scariest part was sparring with Muay Thai world champion Attachai Fairtex at Evolve MMA, that was more scary than Boku's striking! When you train with world champions every day, you are ready for anything that can happen to you in the cage."
After the fight, Aoki broke down in tears as he accepted the belt from ONE FC CEO / Owner Victor Cui and he explained the reason behind this emotional outburst.
"I fight along in the cage but it is everybody on my team and in my life and I cried out of joy because I was so happy."
There will be lightweights in action at ONE FC: "Rise to Power" on May 31st with Kamal Shalorus set to face off with Eduard Folayang and Lowen Tynanes also on the card. There will also be a featherweight title bout between Honorio Banario and Koiji Oishi so there are plenty of potential opponents for Aoki in either division.
Perhaps once the next ONE FC card is out of the way, he will have a better idea of whether his immediate future lies at 155 pounds or if the fights awaiting him at featherweight are more interesting.