Shinya Aoki. Photo courtesy of Fighting and Entertainment Group.
Even though it may not be possible, at the moment or ever, Japanese grappling wizard Shinya Aoki wants to test himself against the best that MMA’s lightweight division has to offer - UFC lightweight title holder B.J. Penn.
“Personally, the most decisive fight in the world, the culmination, the pinnacle for me is B.J. Penn,” Aoki said on the eve of arguably his greatest victory. “Please do not misunderstand—I really need this to be clearly expressed in the media: Shinya Aoki will not go to the UFC. I just want to fight B.J. Penn. This is my selfish wish. I know that everyone says they want Penn, but I think I’m the number one Japanese fighter to be saying this.”
After his win over Eddie Alvarez last week, Aoki also got on the microphone and called out UFC President Dana White in the center of the ring, claiming that the best organization in the sport right now has to be DREAM. His comments go along with FEG President Sadaharu Tanigawa’s statement earlier this week saying that he would to purchase the UFC if the promotion were to go under because of the recent struggles of Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta’s Station Casinos empire.
If FEG is going to attempt to start a rivalry with Zuffa, now might be the best time. Bad feelings were likely harbored after Dana White began his quest to sign Satoshi Ishii, who won a gold medal in judo at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China earlier this year, and was expected to be one of FEG’s hottest attractions. In addition, the UFC has expressed interest in holding an event in Japan at some point in the near future, which goes right along with their interest in Ishii.
PRIDE survived for an extended period of time even during its dying days because of its constant support from hardcore fans, who partly gave back to the organization because of their hatred of the UFC. With the Japanese MMA scene still on shaky ground one year after its reemergence, it might not be a bad idea for FEG to rekindle the bad blood that helped out their formal rivals in the past.
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