Eduard Folayang and his familiar path to glory

Santino Honasan on May 28, 2018 02:58 PM
Eduard Folayang and his familiar path to glory
“Yun naman yung gusto natin, hindi yung natapos na yung end ng chapter ng story natin, kundi may mga magaganda and exciting stories pa na maisusulat in that book.”

Eduard Folayang has been here before.

Back in 2014, after racking up back-to-back wins in in a span of half a year, the Team Lakay star was slowly building a name for himself as a top-tier contender in ONE Championship’s lightweight division. A third straight win would have possibly put him in the title picture.

And then, he ran into Russian Timofey Nastyukhin.

A sequence that will forever be burned in the minds of Filipino MMA fans, Nasytukhin dropped Folayang with a well-timed flying knee to the jaw, and then finished it off with a crushing soccer kick, back when soccer kicks were allowed.

While it wasn’t Folayang’s first stoppage loss, it was arguably his most violent to date. The Filipino MMA star lay motionless in front of a Filipino crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.

It took Folayang over a year before he made his return, a decision win over Tetsuya Yamada. That win would set Folayang on his path to the ONE Lightweight Word Championship, one of the most celebrated stories in MMA in the past couple of years.

Roughly three years removed since his knockout loss to Nastyukhin at the Mall of Asia Arena, it would seem like a cruel repetition of history, as Folayang would once again find himself staring up at the MoA Arena lights in late 2017.

Folayang, a single day away from celebrating his one-year anniversary of being a ONE world champion, saw his spot at the top of the lightweight division taken away with one, well-timed overhand right, courtesy of Martin Nguyen.

Nguyen made history that night at the expense of Folayang, becoming ONE Championship’s first ever two-division world champion.

For the Pinoy MMA hero, it was another setback, not unlike the many he’s faced through the course of his career.

 

The Road to Redemption

No matter what other people said, those who knew him knew he’d be back, and one of those whose believe never wavered was that of ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong, saying that this is just the start of Folayang's journey. 

So finally, when it was announced that Folayang would indeed be coming back to the cage, it was a big deal.

Immediately, it was clear that redemption was on the former champion’s mind.

“Yun naman ang nagpapa-sarap sa isang life story, yung paano ka mag-rise after you fall, and it adds a lot of spices sa life if ganun ulit yung mangyayari, although syempre may different versions yung story ng bawat isa sa atin, and I’m still looking forward on my redemption in this upcoming fight.” Folayang said.

Folayang’s return was set for May, in one of the most-stacked ONE cards of the year, and even with three world title bouts featuring the biggest ONE Championship stars also on the card, Filipino fight fans’ eyes were on Folayang’s highly-anticipated return.

 

Parallel Experiences

With 25 professional bouts under his belt, Eduard Folayang isn’t new to the game, by any means. From fighting in front of small crowds to main eventing a packed Singapore Indoor Stadium for the world title, Folayang has seen it all and done it all, that’s why pre-fight jitters isn’t expected to be an issue for a fighter the caliber and experience of ‘The Landslide.’

And while it wasn’t so much as jitters, Folayang admits that he had a lot going through his head in the days leading up to his comeback fight.

“Yung siguro sa akin lang, andaming pumapasok sa isipan ko, hindi mo maiiwasan yung mga ‘what ifs’ mga paano kung natalo ulit ako dito, ganun,” Folayang told ABS-CBN Sports.

Having already been in this situation before, Folayang added that it was indeed a big help being able to look back at a parallel experience.

“Oo naman, nakatulong, kasi looking back noong 2014, nung na-knockout din ako kay Timofey, tapos yung same feeling nung kakalabanin ko ulit nung 2016 si Tetsuya Yamada, andaming tumatakbo sa utak, mas lalo na since naging champion ako, syempre hindi mawawala yung expectations ng tao and andyan na yung mga bashers e, naka-ready na sila. So the best thing to do is dapat maging mentally strong and accurate sa pagpapatupad ng gameplan para manalo.”

And implement a gameplan successfully, he did.

 

The Comeback

Against an undefeated grappler in Russian Kharun Atlangeriev, Folayang was visibily patient and picked his shots while shrugging off takedown attempts to earn the unanimous decision win.

“Yun yung isa sa mga nakita ko na parang naging cautious ako, siguro yung thinking na talagang parang masyadong worth yung game, as much as possible talaga, hindi mo na iniisip na maging fancy  yung fight, mas nananaig yung goal mo na manalo.” Folayang said of his performance against Atlangeriev. “Siguro yun yung isa sa mga pinaka-reason kung bakit medyo naging conservative yung approach ko sa fight, at saka napansin ko din, although gusto ko mag-all out, very passive yung kalaban eh, hindi mo alam kung ano yung iniisip niya, yun din yung isa sa mga naging reason.”

Folayang went on record and gave himself a three out of five rating in his comeback fight. While ultimately he was happy with the result, the Baguio City native believes that he could have done way more, and that’s what he intends to do in the future.

“Masaya, although sa akin I believe I can do much better, syempre ngayon comeback fight kasi kaya andyan palagi yung pressure, the more we learn a lot of lessons, the more na magiging maganda yung adjustment natin for the upcoming bouts na dadating.”

Step one of the comeback was complete.

 

Second Shot at Glory

And again, Eduard Folayang finds himself on the comeback trail.

The 34-year old Team Lakay star has successfully bounced back from a loss, but arguably more important now is what lies ahead.

With the win, Folayang is on his way, if not already back in the title picture, and if you ask him, he’ll be the first to tell you that he’s ready to get back what was once his.

“Parang more na na-boost yung desire ulit para makabalik dun sa nawala sa atin, and hopefully this year, magkaroon ulit ng opportunity para maka-laban for the title.”

Fueling the fire even more for Folayang is the fact that after seeing Nguyen’s last two bouts - a unanimous decision loss to ONE Bantamweight World champion Bibiano Fernandes and a split decision win over Christian Lee - he feels he can perform better if given a second go-around.

“Especially after panoorin yung last two fights nung tumalo sa akin, parang nasasayangan ba. Feeling ko talaga, mas deserving na ako yung nakahawak, parang ganun yung pakiramdam ko.” Folayang shared. “Parang I could have done better kung hindi lang ako naging careless on one point, and kung na-oversee ko lang talaga na yung strength ko, dun ako papasukin.”

While only time will tell whether or not Folayang does get a shot at the title again, whether a rematch or be it against someone else, the former champ is certain that he’s still in this, and he’s hungrier than ever for another taste of glory.

“Malakas pa rin eh [yung hunger], it’s just a matter of paano natin alagaan yung career natin, yung health natin, iba kasi, yun din yung kagandahan ng mixed martial arts eh, the more na pumupunta yung age mo, the more na mas nagiging cautious ka, hindi na lang puro lakas yung ilalaban mo kundi parang nagiging wiser ka na din sa approach mo.”

“I think yung hunger ko andun parin, I’m still hungry.” Folayang adds.

When it’s all said and done, Folayang won’t be happy with just being at the top once and then crashing down after. For the Team Lakay star, there are still chapters to be written as he begins what is hopefully another run towards the pinnacle of the sport.

“Yun naman yung gusto natin, hindi yung natapos na yung end ng chapter ng story natin, kundi may mga magaganda and exciting stories pa na maisusulat in that book.”

After all, “multi-time world champion” Eduard Folayang has better ring to it, no?

“Yun yung gusto natin, mas magandang pakinggan.”

Eduard Folayang’s been here before, and if you’ve been paying attention, you know that this is just the start of great things to come.

Latest News