Eduard Folayang has already secured himself one title shot only to see it snatched cruelly away when he was forced to pull out of his ONE FC championship bout with Zorobabel Moreira in order to honor a contract with the URCC.
He was matched with the then-unknown wrestler Lowen Tynanes and suffered a devastating defeat, which threatened to permanently derail him from his ONE FC title track. That the Hawaiian should go on to prove himself as one of the best in the division with three further stoppage wins was scant consolation for Folayang.
However, the 29-year-old steadied the ship with a dominant decision win over Vincent Latoel last December and on May 2 he has an opportunity to make a serious statement about his title credentials by beating the man who stopped Moreira to become the inaugural champion.
At ONE FC: Rise of Heroes, Folayang is facing former lightweight champion Kotetsu Boku and is desperate to secure the win, which would keep his title hopes alive.
“It’s my goal to get that belt, not only for myself, but for my team and for my country. The determination to achieve that dream is burning in my heart,” he told MMAWeekly.com.
Boku has showcased some serious punching power to stop both Moreira and Arnaud Lepont, and Folayang is well aware of what his forthcoming opponent brings to the table,
“He is good at using boxing and for me to counter that I need to learn more about the principles of boxing, so I have been training with some very good boxers. I think Boku’s strength is in his hands; he likes to trade and knows how to use his punching power to capitalize. From what I have seen in his fights I believe his wrestling is his weakness.”
Folayang comes from a background in Wushu and has won numerous tournaments and competitions, claiming a gold medal at the SEA Games in 2011. However, the former school teacher has two submission wins to his name, is known for his takedowns, and believes this gives him a clear advantage over Boku.
“I believe I’m a much more well rounded than him because I can use punches, kicks and takedowns together,” he said.
The fight is set for the 20,000-capacity SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, meaning that Folayang is guaranteed the fervent support of the Filipino fans in attendance and he is relishing another opportunity to compete in his country’s capital.
“I like fighting in Manila because fighting in front of my fellow Filipinos boosts my energy as I am more inspired to fight and win for them.”
Energy seemed to be in short supply the first time Folayang fought at the SM Mall of Asia Arena when he dropped a decision to Kamal Shalorus. However, he appeared revitalized for his second appearance in the venue, dominating Latoel from start to finish, and says he has learned from the mistakes he made in preparing to face the Iranian.
“My preparation was much better on my fight against Vincent. If I had prepared like that for my fight with Shalorus, it would have been a much better and much more exciting fight. The sport is holistic and I overlooked some important areas before my fight with Shalorus. I will not make that mistake again.”
Folayang is 13-4 overall and his 3-2 ONE FC record marks him out as one of the better fighters in the organization’s lightweight division, but he knows that title shots are normally only awarded to the very best.
A win over the former champion would be a massive step in the right direction and Folayang knows that, at this stage of his career, he cannot afford another loss if he wants to wear the ONE FC gold.
“I believe that a win over Boku will bring me closer to the title that’s why I need to be victorious, but I know I need to beat every opponent from now on to make my dream of winning the ONE FC lightweight belt come true.”
While Folayang’s recent form has been mixed, he remains the most popular fighter in the Philippines and has been described as the sport’s answer to Manny Pacquiao. The MMA hopes of a nation rest on his shoulders and he takes this responsibility very seriously.
“I don’t know why the fans like me, but what I do know is that when I am in the cage there is no turning back and I have to give my all to inspire them that they too can be a superstar in their own area of endeavor.”
Folayang has been in some memorable battles with his come-from-behind win over A Sol Kwon being the highlight of ONE FC’s inaugural event and his war with Ole Laursen being a contender for the 2012 fight of the year.
His contribution towards helping Filipino mixed martial artists start achieving the same sort of status and popularity as their boxing counterparts will never be forgotten, but Folayang feels his career will not be complete until he has won a ONE FC belt.
Putting together a title run will be harder than ever because the division has become much more competitive since he defeated Kwon back in 2011, but Folayang is determined to do it and knows there would be no better way of getting back in the mix than with a win over a former champion at ONE FC: Rise of Heroes.
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