33-year-old Eduard Folayang is one of the humblest warriors you could ever come across. A man with no airs about him, he laughs and smiles for the cameras, and is nothing but respectful toward his opponents outside the ONE Championship cage.
However, when the lights dim and the cage door closes, the reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion flips a switch which takes him from being a light-hearted, friendly guy, into an intense, stone-cold mixed martial artist.
“When I enter that cage, my entire mindset changes. The time for being nice and playing games is over. Once that cage door closes, my focus shifts entirely to battle. Only one guy gets to walk out of the cage a winner, so I make sure that guy is me,” said Folayang. “I have to be able to defend myself, and sometimes that means finishing my opponent as best as I can. If that means I have to knock them out, then so be it.
“I do pray for my opponent’s health and safety before we enter the cage, though. This is a platform where we can showcase our talent, skills, and preparation. At the end of the day, our health and safety after the fight [takes] priority.”
It’s a sharp contrast from Folayang’s usual demeanour outside the cage. On 28 March, Folayang’s upcoming opponent, Malaysia’s Ev “E.T.” Ting, got to spend some time with the Filipino champion at the Top of the Citi rooftop restaurant in Manila for a media event to promote their 21 April bout.
Although there were smiles all around, there was still the sense that both Folayang and Ting knew that it wouldn’t last for very long. As Fight Night inches closer, things will undoubtedly take on a more serious tone. Folayang and Ting square off at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY in a scheduled five-round main event for Folayang’s ONE Lightweight World Championship.
“I know the stakes. I know what’s riding on this fight. Ev (Ting) is coming for my belt, he’s coming to take what I’ve worked so hard for my entire career. There is no way I’m just going to let him take it. It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure,” said Folayang.
“Outside the cage, I don’t know Ev personally, but I think he is a stand-up individual. Once we step inside those steel doors, however, it’s time for “Landslide” to take over. I put everything into my performance. All the months of hard work and sacrifice boils down to just one night, so I have to make it count.”
That’s the usual package you get from Folayang. As he has shown in the past, there are two sides to his psyche — one, the mild-mannered ‘Eduard’, former school teacher and all-around nice guy who’s everyone’s friend in Baguio City, and the other, the “Landslide”, one of the best mixed martial artists in the world.
“Back in 2007, when I was first starting out in professional MMA, one of the co-owners of the promotion I was fighting in at the time gave me the nickname “Landslide” when I defeated their reigning champion,” said Folayang.
“It perfectly describes how I am as a fighter whenever I step onto the battlefield — fearfully and wonderfully made by God. I’m a force of nature, and I’m the ONE Lightweight World Champion.”
When Folayang steps into the cage with Ting this April, it will mark the first time “Landslide” defends his hard-earned title, and it will be in front of his hometown crowd in Manila. Fans are excited to see their hero take the stage and perform locally for the first time in over two years. Folayang is even more excited for his highly-anticipated homecoming.
“It’s going to be awesome. I love my country, and I love the Filipino people and all the MMA fans. I can’t wait to get back in there and defend our home turf. By the grace of God, I will emerge victorious,” Folayang concluded.