Inside Details of the Chaos Surrounding Sage Northcutt and Shinya Aoki’s Fight at ONE 165 Revealed by Chatri Sityodtong

Published 02/01/2024, 5:17 AM EST

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Fans were caught by surprise at a sudden change of opponent for Shinya Aoki on the day of ONE 165: Superlek vs Takeru this past weekend, and ONE Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong bared more details on what transpired behind the scenes.

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A lightweight MMA bout between the Japanese legend and American star Sage Northcutt was set to take place inside Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday, 28 January. However, during the broadcast, it was revealed that “Tobikan Judan” was instead going to fight former bantamweight king John Lineker in an openweight MMA match.

Chatri Sityodtong talks about the last-minute replacement for the Shinya Aoki and Sage Northcutt fight

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Aoki went on to pick up the win with an impressive first-round submission and earn himself a cool US$50,000 bonus for his performance. Following the event, the ONE chief offered to shed more light on how the original match fell through.

“I got a call from Sage during the prelim fights and we went back and forth. His cornermen were actually on a plane. One of them already had a visa ready, he could have if he wanted to, but the other one couldn’t. And so Sage decided to withdraw because he couldn’t have his cornermen,” he said.

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According to Chatri Sityodtong, he personally asked Tye Ruotolo to corner “Super,” but Northcutt politely declined as he preferred to go to battle with the people who helped prepare him for it. Thankfully, Lineker was tabbed as a backup fighter and passed weight and hydration together with the other competitors in the event. But they had to find him first.

Sityodtong said, “It’s crazy because John was sitting in the stands and no one could find him. We didn’t know where he was in the stadium. There’s 10,000 people, but nobody knew where he was. Then we had staff running around, running around. Then we [got] Shinya and made that fight around the opening ceremony, that was when the fight was made, and that was crazy.”

 

Lineker eventually made it backstage and took the ring against a fighter who competed two weight classes above his usual division.

“I Honestly Don’t Know How Long I Can Keep This Up” – Shinya Aoki Opens Up After Submission Victory Over Last-Second Replacement John Lineker at ONE 165

ONE Championship CEO praises the promotion’s roster

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If, by chance, “Hands Of Stone” was not found that day, Chatri revealed that another superstar was willing to step up to save the event and allow Aoki to perform in front of the adoring Japanese crowd. The ONE CEO stated, “There’s another crazy side story. Kade Ruotolo comes walking up to me in the hallway and he says, ‘Chatri, I would fight Shinya.’ And I said, ‘MMA?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I will.’ And I was like, ‘What about your title defense?’ And he was like, ‘I’d do that too. I’d fight Shinya and Tommy now, tonight.’ And he’s dead serious,”

Ruotolo’s desire burned with so much passion that Chatri almost considered having him compete twice at the same event. Reason and fighter safety prevailed in his thoughts though, and he was able to convince Ruotolo to stand down. However, he says it is a testament to the kind of fighters that ONE has on the roster.

“In my 12 years, hundreds of events, I’ve never seen this. Never have I ever. Such crazy [turn of events]. But again, at ONE Championship, this is what we do. The very best of the best on the planet fight anyone, anywhere, anytime. Some organizations tweet about it. But our boys and girls, they do it,” said Sityodtong.

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ONE Championship has taken over the fighting business in Asia. Given the top-class events that the promotion provides for the fight fans, it isn’t surprising to see the success they have garnered over the years. What do you expect from the promotion in 2024?

Chatri Sityodtong Says MMA Will Be “Back in Full Force” in 2024 After Monumental Year for Muay Thai

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Written by:

Imtikokba Jamir

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As someone who's spent his childhood experiencing combat sports firsthand, I have always been in awe of the action in the cage. Post a Degree with Honors in Literature, I quickly realised my penmanship needed some gloves. So here I am , Imtikokba Jamir, a pro writer for UFC at EssentiallySports.
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Edited by:

Yeswanth Praveen

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