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Throwback | Shinya Aoki v. Mizuto Hirota

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

Anyone that has attended a class in our Jiu Jitsu program led by any of our coaches is well aware of their adoration of the Pride FC era of Mixed Martial Arts. However, what many of our members fail to grasp is the bat-sh*t absurdity that was the Japanese MMA scene of that time. Combat sporting events in Japan were absolute anomalies in regards to spectatorship, match making, rule sets, and presentation. Without question, Dynamite !! 2009 was one such event that any MMA afficionado should check out

The event was held at the Saitama Super Arena on New Years Eve Infront of a crowd of 46,000 and matched up fighters representing a variety of promotions. One such bout was a showdown between Mizuto Hirota (Sengoku Lightweight Champion) against Shinya Aoki (WAMMA and DREAM) Lightweight Champion. At the time, the two fighters were essentially considered to be foils of each other; Hirota was considered to be an incredibly dangerous striker, while Aoki could have only been described as a submission grappling machine.

The leadup to the event was especially unique as both fighters engaged in heated exchanges of trash talk (nothing remotely compared to the exchanges amongst the current UFC roster) and each fighter engaged each other via the media. These behaviors were very uncharacteristic of the mainstream Japanese Mixed Martial Arts, typically the demeanor displayed by Japanese fighters was reserved, respectful, and always in the positive spirit of competition. Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts pioneers such as the Gracie Family have spoken at length about their experiences fighting in Japan and how the Japanese population celebrated the warrior spirit, held honor as a virtue, and never broke manners.

The fight itself was as brief as it was violent, Aoki was able to quickly turn the fight into a grappling match and Mirota was taken completely out of his element. Aoki was able to trap Mirota's arm behind his back in a modified hammerlock and secure the full mount. Aoki wrenched Mirota's arm sharply, but the Sengoku Lightweight Champion would not submit. Aoki escalated the position by turning over to apply maximum leverage and shattering Mirota's arm at the elbow.

I recall being shocked at the outcome, however the explosive break of Mirota's arm was nothing compared to Aoki's following outburst. Immediately after the referee waved the fight off, Aoki brandished the expletive middle finger in the face of the downed and injured Mirota and then towards the 46,000 spectators in attendance. Today we live in a time where instances like Khabib diving into the crowd to trounce Dillon Danis is not uncommon; however at the time, this was considered an egregious act of poor sportsmanship. Additionally, Japanese fighters always addressed the crowd post fight to thank them and cut a promo to express future plans. Aoki instead bolted out of the ring, down the aisle, and back to the locker room, without acknowledging the fans.

Thankfully, this was just a momentary stumble for Shinya Aoki and not a career ending act of unprofessionalism. Arguably, this moment of poor sportsmanship endeared Aoki to the American fanbase more effectively than the reserved approach of his contemporaries. Aoki was no longer looked at as the typical Japanese MMA fighter talking about the samurai spirit, he was now the Nick Diaz of Japan and a popular heel. Shinya Aoki was a fantastic fighter with a larger than life personality, he holds a place in MMA greatness along with Kazushi Sakuraba, Enson Inoue, and Takanori Gomi.

The Mario Sperry Jiu-Jitsu of Ohio family remains dedicated to delivering old school Jiu Jitsu to the Greater Youngstown Area. Our Canfield, OH facility is open to all newcomers of all ages. We look forward to training with you!

Michael Chiovitti

Head Trainer & Co-founder

Mario Sperry Jiu-Jitsu of Ohio

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