Shinya Aoki has carved out a very successful MMA career, fighting around the world in many different promotions such as Pride, DREAM, Shooto, and even Bellator.
The ONE FC lightweight champ recently made a move down to featherweight, defeating Cody Stevens in his divisional debut at ONE FC: Total Domination in October.
But there is one major promotion that “The Grand Master of Flying Submissions” has not competed in, and that is the UFC. It’s often been wondered just how Aoki would fare against top competition in the Octagon. Apparently, that nearly happened. But Aoki turned down a contract offer from the UFC. His trainer Chatri Sityodtong detailed the situation via his Facebook page:
“The rumors are true. UFC offered contracts to 3 fighters on the Evolve Fight Team: Shinya Aoki, Eddie Ng, and Leandro Brodinho. After careful reflection, Shinya and Eddie have both decided to stay in ONE FC due to more favorable economics. Brodinho has not made a final decision yet and is currently thinking through everything.”
Interesting. Aoki decided to stay with ONE FC because of ‘more favorable economics,’ meaning that they most likely pay more than whatever offer the UFC put on the table. Debates are going to rise as to whether this is the true reason of Aoki’s refusal because he’s wilted in the face of truly top competition. His fights against Eddie Alvarez and Gilbert Melendez are prime examples of this.
Perhaps Aoki is content to fight in Asia, picking off their mid-level combatants with an array of complex submissions. He wouldn’t be able to pull those off on the top opponents he’d be facing in the Octagon, so it actually comes as little surprise that he turned down the UFC offer. He would have walked right into a hornet’s nest because the UFC features an absolute murderer’s row at 145 pounds.
Aoki most likely would have had a very tough time with any top ten featherweight in the UFC. If he can make more money fighting lesser opponents in ONE FC, there’s little motivation for him to risk losing your reputation by being outclassed by the best. Are you surprised by Aoki’s decision? Would you have liked to see him compete in the UFC?