Defending ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard Folayang has promised to be “more creative” when he puts his belt on the line against crafty submission artist Shinya Aoki in March.
Speaking ahead of the highly-anticipated rematch at ONE: A NEW ERA in Tokyo, the reigning lightweight titleholder Folayang vowed to surprise Aoki.
“I have to become more innovative,” declared Folayang, who will battle Aoki in the main event in Japan.
“I have been working a lot on my wrestling and ground game, so there’s been some major improvements compared to last time.”
Folayang stunned the world back on 11 November 2016 when he finished Aoki via TKO in the third round to claim the lightweight title for the first time in his career.
“Fighting him again will be a tougher prospect, but it’s exciting for me to face him again,” Folayang said. A lot of things have changed. I lost the title but I was able to get it back. Shinya has had some tough challenges but he was able to tough them out. There’s been a lot of movement for both of us.”
Aoki poses a major threat to the championship reign of Folayang, bringing an unrivaled submission game to the championship bout.
“He’s a grappling wizard and you cannot allow him to put you in his world,” Folayang concedes. If you allow him to do that, his chances of winning are much better. The best thing to do is prevent him from getting in that position and give him a lot of problems beforehand. That’s the best thing that I can do.”
Honing his craft for several years, Folayang is no mug on the mat, either. But the 34-year-old is intent on keeping Aoki on his feet.
“As much as possible, I don’t want to go where he will have the advantage,” Folayang said. Of course, I need to be prepared that if the fight does go to the ground that I have the confidence and strategy to get up again. I will not be passive in defending on the ground. I can’t let him dictate terms. And if I get the chance, then I will also try to submit him. I need to do something to lessen his confidence on the ground.”
Regardless of where the battle takes him, Folayang is desperate to prove his worth to the world.
“I want to make another statement this time,” he said. Of course, he will study the things that made him lose last time, so I probably need to be more innovative this time.
“I need to be more creative, but I will finish him.”