Now he’s out to share the mats with them again, not as opponents, but as friends and training partners at the fabled Team Lakay gym in Benguet.
Aoki flew to the Philippines, then made the nearly six-hour drive from Manila to Benguet province to spend time with the warriors of the north.
It was a nice gesture considering that Aoki has faced Folayang thrice in their legendary careers, with the Japanese submission wizard winning two of those three fights convincingly.
Aoki also scored a quick submission win over former ONE Featherweight World Champion Honorio Banario.
The idea came after Folayang suffered yet another loss last December to Aoki, with the latter then announcing his plans to visit and train with him and talk about their respective futures.
Aoki has fulfilled that promise, and he’s enjoying his stay so far.
The 39-year-old bared that the trip has been fulfilling, as not many Japanese people make the trip up north to the mountains to train.
He has also enjoyed the food so far, praising the sisig and rice from the restaurant near his hotel and enjoying the local delicacies like strawberry ice cream.
While he was a little bit nervous as to how he’d be received, there’s been no question that he’s been welcomed warmly.
“[I’m] excited to see the Japanese legend Shinya Aoki here in the land of strawberries,” Folayang said.
“Mabuhay, maligayang araw sa iyong pagdating!”