DREAM lightweight champion Shinya Aoki has revealed his upcoming fight plans while speaking with MMAWeekly.
The submission stalwart defeated striking specialist Rob McCullough at DREAM 17 on Sept. 24 and is now planning to return to action on New Year's Eve. No opponent has been announced for the end of year event.
Aoki also acknowledged his extensive training at Evolve MMA in Singapore, where he has been working on his Muay Thai skills. The fighter described his preparation for the McCullough fight, "For the first time, I was unafraid to stand and strike because of my Muay Thai training.”
The fighter also released the news that he will rematch current Bellator lightweight title holder Eddie Alvarez in 2012. Aoki defeated Alvarez by heel hook in late 2008.
The Japanese fighter also discussed the uphill battle that MMA faces in the country. Since the demise of Pride in 2007, other promotions have struggled to stay afloat. However, Aoki is confident that the sport will recover in the country. "MMA in Japan is a complicated situation," Aoki declared. "(But) It’s not in my control.”
Despite a pair of appearances inside Strikeforce, Aoki has yet to make the jump to US competition full time. Aoki recently welcomed a newborn baby at home and the fighter made it known that his family is his priority. “If I did not have a family, then I would go to the UFC right now,” said Aoki.
With the current state of MMA in Japan looking bleak, Aoki remains the country's biggest draw. Wins on New Year's Eve and against Alvarez could help revive the sport's popularity or even force Aoki to reconsider making the jump to the UFC.