Eduard Folayang aims high in One Fighting Championship. | Photo Courtesy: One FC
Known around Southeast Asia as the Pinoy MMA counterpart to boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, One Fighting Championship’s Eduard Folayang wants to be the next reason the world turns its eyes to Filipino combat sports.
“Manny is a great influence and encouragement,” Folayang said. “He is one of our modern-day heroes, and I pray we, too, will be able to put the Philippines on the global map in the field of MMA.”
Following Pacquiao’s recent win over Timothy Bradley, Folayang figures to be as motivated as ever to bring glory to his homeland when he stands across from Kotetsu Boku at One FC 15 “Rise of Heroes” on Friday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
Born and raised in Baguio City, Philippines, Folayang began training in wushu under Tony Candelaria at the age of 16. Together with Mark Sangiao, he achieved international acclaim in that discipline, winning multiple medals in international competition. During that time, Folayang actually held a position as a high school English and physical education teacher in Mountain Province; however, when he joined the Lakay MMA camp, he decided to take up fighting on a full-time basis.
“Head Coach Mark Sangiao and I have known each other for a long time,” Folayang said. “When he moved to MMA, he introduced the sport to most of us here at Team Lakay. He is like an elder brother to us so we trusted his judgment, and it was the right choice.”
Although wushu is primarily a standup art, Folayang believes it has something to contribute to the entire MMA skill set. This belief is backed up by the fact that he has yet to be submitted in professional competition.
“It has worked out that I have not been submitted yet, but I am not resting on my laurels,” he said. “I am working in everything, from wrestling to grappling, to supplement my wushu skills, which are useful in striking. Wushu is effective in striking and also in teaching you balance and takedown defense, so I have mixed in offensive wrestling and submissions to be well-rounded.”
While his world-class wushu has helped him to earn five victories by knockout or technical knockout, Folayang also has two wins by submission and six by unanimous decision, which gives some insight into the quality and level of his conditioning.
“I attribute that back to the intensive physical training we do in Baguio, which is about 1,540 meters above sea level,” he said. “I think it helps when I compete to be training in altitude.”
Folayang was offered a One FC title shot in December 2012 but was forced to decline the opportunity due to a commitment to fight for the Universal Reality Combat Championship organization. His eventual replacement was Boku, who went on to defeat Zorobabel Moreira for the One FC lightweight strap. Though his next appearance for One FC resulted in a decision loss to Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Kamal Shalorus, Folayang bounced back with a unanimous decision over Dutch submission specialist Vincent Latoel at One FC 13 in December.
“I think my toughest fight was against Kamal Shalorus,” Folayang said. “He brings so much experience and is a decorated wrestler. I realized through that experience how much I need to improve in my grappling. It doesn’t matter how good I am in other areas; if my opponent has one area significantly better than me, then I will be defeated. I would like to face him again, as I think my wrestling has improved significantly since then.”
Folayang still has his sights set on the One FC lightweight crown, which is currently held by Japanese submission ace Shinya Aoki.
“I want to fight for the title and hope I get the opportunity,” he said. “I have faith in the matchmakers of One FC that they will give me that opportunity, once I have proven to them I deserve it.”
Folayang plans to prove his worthiness with a win over Boku, a former One FC and Shooto champion.
“In my opinion, Boku is an experienced fighter who knows how to gamble his punches,” he said. “I believe the fight will be finished with my hand raised.”
If he can get past Boku, Folayang hopes to be considered for a title shot once again.
“It will be a huge honor if I can enter the cage to face Aoki,” he said. “He is one of the best in the world and a legend in Japan, so I will be grateful if I get to test myself against him.”