Eduard Folayang is prepared to make history. The Filipino is ready to defy the odds, dethrone an iconic champion, and capture the prestigious title he has long desired. Truly, he is about to manifest his destiny.
On Friday Night, 11 November, the Baguio City native will attempt to win the ONE World Lightweight Championship when he battles reigning titleholder Shinya Aoki at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Aoki, fierce competitor and the face of Japanese MMA, has become legendary for his lethal submission game and his suffocating grappling prowess. But in the eyes of Folayang, Aoki is still mortal.
“I believe even legends fall. I believe this is my time. When that time comes, I will be the next legend,” the 32-year-old contender says. “Some people think that I cannot beat Aoki, but I believe in myself. This is a great opportunity for me to show them that they are wrong. I can be the one to beat the legend.”
Folayang certainly has the credentials to accomplish that feat. The man known as “Landslide” is a three-time SEA Games Wushu gold medalist and URCC Welterweight Champion. Holding an impressive 16-5 record, the knockout artist is riding a two-fight win streak, and has never been submitted in his professional career.
However, the Filipino is perfectly aware of Aoki’s background. He knows the Japanese sensation is a relentless catch wrestler armed with judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts, and has the tendency to bait people into his ultra-slick ground game.
With wins over other current promotional title holders such as DEEP Lightweight Champion Satoru Kitaoka and UFC Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez, as well as a stellar 39-6 record, Aoki’s legend has only grown.
“Shinya Aoki is a very tough opponent. You can see that he has a lot of experience. He has fought a lot of experienced fighters. He always puts the game in his advantage. That will be a problem that I need to solve. Finding a solution for that is very necessary,” Folayang acknowledges.
“When I watch Aoki fight, I am thinking of a solution. I am thinking of my own strengths and how I am able to answer those offenses that he will be initiating. I need to have a solution to the techniques he will be throwing at me.”
Finding solutions is a familiar task to Folayang, as he has fought adversity his whole life. But although he has faced setbacks in his MMA career, he has still been able to persevere and continue on the road to his destiny.
Born to parents who never went to school themselves, Folayang went from being a poverty-stricken student in Baguio to a University of the Cordilleras graduate. As a teenager, he became an athlete to help relieve his parents of some financial burdens, and avoid the drug-infested street life that consumes so many Filipino youths.
He has since paid both his parents and his country back by becoming a member of the Philippines Wushu Team and winning eleven major medals, including three gold medals at the South East Asia Games.
Truly, he defines perseverance, and it is the lessons of yesterday that have created the gentleman he is today.
“I believe the toughness of life and the pressure I encountered in the past has helped me to be who I am today. It makes me stronger and tougher. Without those pressures, I would not be the man I am today,” he admits.
A lot is riding on Folayang’s shoulders — the unwavering support of a nation, his family’s well-being, and his own grueling expectations. This upcoming title bout with Aoki is the culmination of a five-year journey and a rare chance to see if he is not only the best lightweight in Asia, but in the entire world. To do that, he has to topple a modern legend.
It is an immense amount of pressure, something “Landslide” most certainly feels. But with his one shot at destiny, he will not let the pressure get the best of him.
“To be a champion, you need to have the dedication, the commitment to pursue the dream that you have. You need to sacrifice and face whatever it takes so you can be able to be a champion,” he states steadfastly.
“This is my time to be a champion.”