MANILA, Philippines — In a sudden turn of events, former champions Eduard Folayang and Shinya Aoki will go at it for the third time in ONE on TNT IV on April 29.
Folayang and Aoki split their previous two meetings with the Team Lakay icon winning the first bout via third-round stoppage in 2016 and the Japanese grappling legend leveling the score three years later via first-round submission .
"This will be a monumental test for me. It's a sudden change of our preparation, but I'm a professional athlete, so I have to be prepared for anything, at any given time. I have to be ready to calibrate for what will be served for that perfect aim," Folayang (22-10) told ONE Championship.
"I am not a pessimistic person, and I'm a warrior. Naturally, I'm not expecting to lose, but to get the big victory this time."
The 36-year-old Folayang could really use a win if he is to get back in the lightweight title picture after dropping four of his last fight fights.
He was supposed to fight another Japanese veteran in Yoshihiro Akiyama, who was forced to withdraw from the bout due to an injury.
Aoki's original opponent Sage Northcutt, meanwhile, also pulled out of their fight due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
"This is the last event of the 'ONE on TNT' series, so it's meant to be, and it's going to be a great one for fans. A lot of people have been waiting for this trilogy with Folayang," said the 37-year-old Aoki (46-9), who is on a three-fight win streak.
"Looking back at the past two fights against him, I am very motivated to perform well. This fight is a great one for ONE Championship. I think this fight has a lot of meaning. It's fate that we meet again. As always, I will fight anyone, because I am a proud wrestler and fighter."
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