In 2012, Eduard Folayang was awarded a shot at the inaugural ONE Championship lightweight belt after beating Felipe Enomoto by decision. Unfortunately for the Filipino, he still had a contract with the URCC and they insisted he fight on one of their cards.
So instead of challenging Zorobabel Moreira for the title at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, he found himself facing Lowen Tynanes in front of a handful of fans in Manila. Folayang was stopped in the first round and it would take him four long years to work his way back into title contention.
In hindsight, Folayang would probably have had more chance of beating Moreira than Tynanes and the defeat represented a devastating setback. On Friday night, he finally gets his chance to fight for the belt at ONE: Defending Honor and it’s a moment that the Filipino has been waiting for.
“My journey in ONE Championship ever since my first fight has been a roller coaster. There are moments in my career when I am already near to the title shot, but suddenly I loss the momentum. And then I climb the latter again and fall again.”
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Folayang earned his shot at champion Shinya Aoki with decision wins over Tatsuya Yamamoto and Adrian Pang. The latter was on the verge of securing a title fight himself, but the Team Lakay veteran stole his momentum after putting in an extremely impressive performance in Macau.
The good news for Folayang is he finally has a shot at the ONE Championship belt. The bad news is that he will need to beat arguably the best lightweight in the history of Asian MMA in order to claim it.
Aoki is riding a nine-fight winning streak dating all the way back to 2012. Folayang knows he will be the underdog in this fight, but believes that his time has finally come.
“I believe I am ready for the title shot even though I know that my opponent is a legend. I’ve faced a lot of tough opponents in my past fights. If I am not willing to take the risk of being in this fight then I can never achieve that greatness.”
Folayang was the first Team Lakay fighter to ever be awarded a ONE Championship title shot, but after being pulled from the fight with Moreira, he’s had to bide his time as teammates have tried, and in most cases failed, to win belts with Asia’s biggest MMA organization.
Team Lakay’s Honorio Banario became the inaugural ONE featherweight champion after beating fellow Filipino Eric Kelly. But since then, Geje Eustaquio, Kevin Belingon and Joshua Pacio have all endured unsuccessful title challenges.
Team Lakay is a close-knit group and Folayang would love nothing more than to see a ONE Championship belt hanging on the gym wall again.
“Training with Team Lakay is very important for me because you don’t just regard your teammate as teammate, but also as brother. Our relationship is not only built in the guy. We really try to help each other, not only in the gym, but in other areas of our life.”
To do that, he will have to upset the odds and defeat the most dominant fighter in the division. It’s a tall task, but Folayang is determined to silence the doubters.
“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.”
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