'I rose up' - It was Eduard Folayang's persistence that led him to glory
"I believe that I am a martial artist and as a martial artist you need to conquer everything you faced in the past." - Eduard Folayang
Prior to Friday night's title defense, Eduard Folayang's last fight in Manila was forgettable, to say the least. The Team Lakay star was on the wrong end of a brutal knockout at the hands of Timofey Nastyukhin.
That was back in 2014. Things are different now. Much, much different.
Friday night, Folayang came back to the Mall of Asia Arena, the very same arena that saw him get knocked out a little over two years earlier, and took everything that challenger Ev Ting had to offer and defended his ONE lightweight championship.
Folayang returned to the Mall of Asia Arena a champion, and left a champion, with a whole nation firmly behind him.
The Baguio native's journey to a world championship has been a long one, with a lot of ups and a lot of downs.
"And andami nang napagdaanan si Eduard, blood and sweat talaga, yung mga kalaban niya hindi basta-basta." said Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao before the title defense. Sangiao has seen Folayang evolve from a gold medalist in Wushu, to a world champion in MMA.
It was also Sangiao who admitted that at one point, giving up was almost an option.
With everything that's transpired in the last year with Team Lakay and Folayang, it's a safe bet that they're glad they didn't
"I rose up." said Folayang after his win over Ting.
As sweet as it must be for Folayang to be able to defend his title on home soil, it's probably as satisfying for him to be able to exorcise the demons of his last MOA Arena performance.
"Napakasarap ng feeling," Folayang said. "Yung talo ko noon, marami yung na-discourage at nag-doubt. Many thought that my career was done and it would be hard for me to rise up."
Folayang is a martial artist to the core, and it's that discipline and self-belief that you pick up when you've been training for years and years, that helped him get back on his feet.
"I believe that I am a martial artist and as a martial artist you need to conquer everything you faced in the past." Folayang said. "Yun naman yung magandang natutunan ko sa martial arts, you need to be persistent"
Folayang indeed remained persistent, and kept fighting, and kept winning. Until eventually, he fought for and won the big one.
From humble beginnings to the top of the lightweight division in Asia's biggest MMA promotion, Folayang has come a very long way. And while his journey had it's share of setbacks, it's those heartaches that have been the fuel that has propelled him to where he is now.
"Buhatin yung sarili mo and wait for your time."
It may have taken a while, but now, it is Eduard Folayang's time.