The heroes of ONE Championship are some of the most courageous athletes in the world.
While they are constantly training in an effort to become the best martial artists they could possibly be, their road to greatness is often loaded with physical battles and mental obstacles that truly test the spirit.
By summoning their inner strength to overcome adversity, they are creating everlasting memories that will eventually become the stuff of legend. With that in mind, here are six athletes who have summoned their strength to overcome adversity and ultimately, prevail.
Eduard Folayang Rebounds From Nastyukhin Knockout
In December 2014, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang experienced the toughest loss of his martial arts career.
The Filipino wushu master was knocked out by rising star Timofey Nastyukhin at home in Manila. It was a difficult defeat to swallow, especially because “Landslide” was considered the hometown favorite. Making it even harder was the fact that critics, and even his fellow countrymen, lost faith in him because they did not believe someone from the Philippines could become a martial arts world champion.
Admittedly, Folayang was devastated, and contemplated retirement. But ultimately, he decided to continue chasing his dream, and he took a year off to work on his weaknesses at some of the best gyms in the United States.
“Landslide” truly returned as a martial artist reborn in 2016. He defeated Tetsuya Yamada via unanimous decision that January, edged out Adrian Pang in a thriller later that August, and defeated the legendary Shinya Aoki via TKO in November to claim the ONE Lightweight World Championship. What’s more, he also successfully defended his title against top contender Ev Ting, proving his dominance.
With a strong self-belief and a hunger for greatness, Folayang made his dream a reality. His next challenge comes in the form of a historic showdown, as he defends his belt against ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin Nguyen in an epic super bout.
Angela Lee Overcomes Sickness To Submit Istela Nunes
This past May, ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela “Unstoppable” Lee won two major battles in the same night, although one of them was kept private.
In the week leading up to her main event title bout against challenger Istela Nunes at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES, the Singaporean was diagnosed with a form of pneumonia. She was constantly sick, barely training, and still had to watch her weight in order to compete.
Lee was even sick on the night of the bout, yet she was still determined to defend her prestigious title. Once the 21-year-old stepped inside the cage for her match, she blocked out the sickness’ ailing effects, and concentrated on her opponent.
The Singaporean heroine would out-class Nunes with superior grappling, and submitted the Brazilian via anaconda choke halfway through the second round.
On 26 May, Lee proved truly “Unstoppable.”
Kevin Belingon’s Renewed World Title Bid
When Filipino contender Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon met reigning ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes in January of 2016, he had realized a career-long goal of finally getting his shot at a world title. But as fate would have it, Belingon succumbed to Fernandes with less than a minute to go in the very first round, tapping out to a deep kimura after being completely dominated on his feet and in grappling exchanges.
He was thoroughly and utterly beaten. Months of hard work in preparation and years of dedication to his craft came crashing down almost instantly. However, in the days following the biggest bout of his career, Belingon turned things around. Overcoming fear and self-doubt, the Filipino warrior came to terms with the loss, and vowed to come back with a vengeance.
He would do so in impressive fashion over his next three bouts. First, Belingon dominated Muin Gafurov en route to a clear unanimous decision, then completely overwhelmed fellow former world title challengers Toni Tauru and Reece McLaren with a pair of stunning first-round knockouts. What’s more, the latter two were elite grapplers, and were expected to exploit his perceived Achilles heel on the ground.
Whether or not his last three performances have earned him another shot at Fernandes remains to be seen, but against Korean-American Kevin Chung at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD in Manila this 10 November, Belingon gets another chance to prove he is ready for another shot at greatness.
Honorio Banario Turns Career Around At Lightweight
Two years ago, Honorio “The Rock” Banario was at the lowest point of his career.
After winning the inaugural ONE Featherweight World Championship in February 2013, he lost the belt three months later, and wound up losing his next four matches in a row.
Following his defeat at the hands of Ev Ting in October 2015, the Team Lakay veteran desperately needed a change. Quitting was not an option; he just needed to find a way to jumpstart his career.
Banario opted to move up to the lightweight division, and has since experienced a career resurgence. He has won four consecutive matches, and most recently knocked out Jaroslav Jartim this past April at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY in a sure contender for KO of the Year.
Now feeling rejuvenated, “The Rock” has never looked better.
Roy Doliguez’s Incredible Comeback KO Against Yago Bryan
For two years, Roy “The Dominator” Doliguez’s back was against the wall, and he needed to find a way off of it.
When the Filipino entered ONE Championship in May 2015, he was granted an opportunity to become the inaugural ONE Strawweight World Championship. He would lose to Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, and then dropped matches to top contenders Riku Shibuya and Alex Silva.
Still, Doliguez was determined to turn his luck around. He met fellow former world title challenger Yago Bryan at ONE: TOTAL VICTORY this past September, and based on his opposition’s grappling ability, it looked as if he was going to lose yet again.
In a spectacular show of perseverance, “The Dominator” never gave up, and connected with a straight left in the third round that planted Bryan onto the canvas and knocked him out.
Doliguez, who continued to possess a high self-confidence throughout many trials and tribulations, had finally earned his first win in the promotion – a dramatic come-from-behind victory.
Late Replacement Zebaztian Kadestam Stuns Top Contender Luis Santos
Zebaztian “The Bandit” Kadestam was considered a heavy underdog heading into his first match in ONE Championship.
The Swede, a former PXC Welterweight Champion, made his promotional debut on two weeks’ notice. He replaced the injured Vuyisile Colossa, and clashed with former world title challenger Luis Santos at ONE: DYNASTY OF HEROES in May.
Brazil’s Santos, who had a full eight-week training camp, dominated “The Bandit” in the first two rounds. He battered the underdog with hard kicks, and constantly grounded him with heavy takedowns.
By the third round, however, Santos was tiring. Kadestam took advantage of the exhausted Brazilian. The Swede stuffed a takedown attempt, connected with some short punches and knocked him out with a pair of knees.
Kadestam pulled off the upset of 2017, and it even earned him a shot at the ONE Welterweight World Title.
This article is brought to you by PREDATOR GAMING as part of their “#SummonYourStrength” campaign.