One of the most humble warriors on the entire ONE Championship roster, Eduard “Landslide” Folayang has always thought of himself as a regular guy. He’s soft-spoken, mild-mannered, and likes to keep life simple, enjoying the peace and tranquility of his native Baguio City, Philippines.
Winning the ONE Lightweight World Championship with that now famed TKO of MMA legend Shinya Aoki, however, brought about a slew of changes that the 33-year-old veteran says takes some getting used to.
“A lot has changed in my life since winning the title. It’s a pretty big shock if you aren’t prepared. I was surprised to see I had fans even in the United States when I visited the country after the fight,” said Folayang. “Now people come up to me and ask if I’m that MMA World Champion and they want to take a picture. Life wasn’t like this back then, that’s for sure. It’s a whole lot busier now.”
Although his schedule has undeniably become impossibly busy with media appearances and the like since winning the title, Folayang says it’s an experience that he is, above all else, enjoying very much. Holding the prestigious ONE Championship belt is “an honor and privilege”, mentioned the former school teacher.
“I didn’t expect this, but I know it’s what’s included in the package. It comes with the territory of being a World Champion in anything, and I embrace it. It’s also a sign that people all around the world are becoming more aware of mixed martial arts and what’s going on in the sport,” said Folayang.
With his newfound fame, Folayang explains that incredible opportunities have opened up for him in both his business and personal life. It’s something that he expected, but to a degree that he can’t exactly fathom at the moment. Still, the position that he’s in opens doors to a lot of possibilities — one of which, Folayang says, is dear to his heart.
“One thing that I really love about being champion is that it gives me more opportunities to connect with fans, especially the youth. I love working with children, and serving as an inspiration to them. Now that I’m champion, I’m giving them an example that if I can make it, so can they,” explained Folayang.
“Not just kids, but pretty much people of all ages. Some have sent me personal messages of how my victory inspired them to push harder in their own lives and conquer their obstacles. On the other hand, it works both ways. Their stories also serve to inspire me.”
On 21 April, in front of his hometown crowd in Manila, Folayang will make the first defense of his ONE Lightweight World Championship against top contender, Malaysian-Kiwi sensation Ev “E.T.” Ting. The pair are set to lock horns in a five-round lightweight contest as the main event ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY at the Mall of Asia Arena.
To be able to maintain the privilege of being a world champion and keeping the title is of utmost priority, says the new champion.
“I always consider every fight a tough one, because every fighter goes into the cage with the intent to give more than a hundred per cent of themselves. Every fighter prepares very well at this level, and they all have their own uniqueness and strategy. It all depends on how our styles match up,” said Folayang.
“Keeping the title is what I plan to do. This title means a lot to me, and I can’t just let it go easily. It’s just like a baby that needs to be protected and nurtured. As always, fans can expect an exciting and inspired fight from the “Landslide”.”