When ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang first learned about his upcoming bout against ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen, he could not believe what he was hearing.
“I thought it was just a rumor,” said the reigning champion. But when coach Mark Sangiao confirmed his next assignment, the 33-year-old could immediately feel the excitement.
Now Folayang (18-5), nearly six months removed from his first title defense against Malaysia’s Ev Ting, is set to face Australia’s Nguyen (9-1) in ONE Championship’s first ever cross-divisional super bout.
The five-round contest will headline ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD, which broadcasts live from the Mall Of Asia Arena on Friday, 10 November.
While he is happy with the way he defended his title against Ting at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY back in April, the Filipino stalwart admits there are things he could have done better. To avoid making the same mistakes, he is now fully focused on preparing for the biggest match of his life.
“There was a lot going on during my first title defense. There was immense pressure on me to put on a good performance, because I always want to make the people of the Philippines happy,” he says.
“At the same time, my daughter was just born, so I was juggling a lot of things personally. It was hard to be completely prepared for the bout. But the important thing is that we learn.”
Folayang is now deep in training, getting ready to face an opponent who has not lost in two years and currently riding a five-bout winning streak, with all five victories coming by spectacular finish.
The 28-year-old Nguyen is two months removed from scoring one of the biggest upsets in recent memory. At ONE: QUEST FOR GREATNESS in August, he stopped previously-unbeaten Russian champion Marat “Cobra” Gafurov with his vaunted overhand right to be crowned the new ONE Featherweight World Champion.
“Martin (Nguyen) shocked the world in his last bout. Gafurov is not an easy opponent, but Martin showed incredible toughness and tenacity,” Folayang acknowledges. “It brought back a lot of memories of my victory against Shinya (Aoki). This is going to be a battle between two martial artists who are capable of anything.”
For Folayang, being champion is not just about having a gold belt draped over his shoulder. It is also a chance to inspire, which has been his ultimate goal in martial arts. Filipinos are very compassionate people, and being willing to help one another has been steeped into Baguio City native’s character from a young age.
“My time as champion has been spent working with the youth, visiting schools in the Philippines to give motivational talks to young athletes. It is a privilege that I hold dear to my heart. To be able to touch the lives of others is an awesome feeling,” he explains.
“I remember the times when I was just starting, and experiencing the same hardships that these kids are going through now. It was tough. So if I can give them just a little bit of inspiration, then I know it will really boost their morale.”
In order to stay champion, however, Folayang has to deal with Nguyen, which is no easy task. The Vietnamese-Australian has an opportunity to become the first concurrent two-division titleholder in ONE Championship, which would instantly elevate him to legendary status.
Although Nguyen’s featherweight strap is not on the line, a victory by “Landslide” should be just as impressive, and would undoubtedly seal his fate as one of the generation’s most elite athletes.
Making the contest more interesting is the friendship and mutual respect for each other’s skills in the cage.
“Martin and I had gotten to know each other during our tour in the United States last year, and I consider him a friend. But I am definitely up for the challenge, and that is why I accepted this bout,” Folayang says.
Understandably, Folayang is hesitant to underestimate his opponent. Training with his world-class stablemates at Team Lakay, the lightweight champion vows to enter ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD in the best shape of his life.
“Martin is a great competitor and he has earned the highest level of my respect. If anything, there is no chance of me underestimating him. That would be unwise,” the Filipino says.
“I am preparing for the best Martin Nguyen possible, one that has no weaknesses, and that is the only way I can prepare to be at my best. I believe this match is going to be a battle between two high-level martial artists and world champions, and fans have definitely never seen anything like this.
“It is going to be a battle from start to finish.”
Manila | 10 November | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast | PPV: Official Livestream at oneppv.com | Tickets: http://bit.ly/onelegends17