The Baguio City, Philippines-based camp may have ended 2017 on a sour note, but the martial arts collective has turned its luck around.
Now, the team is rapidly approaching what could be their most fruitful period yet.
Three of the squad’s most talented athletes — ONE Interim Flyweight World Champion Geje “Gravity” Eustaquio, featherweight contender Edward “The Ferocious” Kelly, and former World Title challenger Danny “The King” Kingad — will be competing at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER on Saturday, 23 June.
A month later, at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS in Manila, Folayang will make his return, and his teammate Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon will challenge two-division ONE World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen for the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Championship.
With so much excitement in the air, Folayang talks in depth about Team Lakay’s forthcoming bouts and World Title opportunities.
ONE Championship: How do you feel Geje Eustaquio has changed from the beginning of his career until now?
Eduard Folayang: I am very proud of Geje, seeing how far he has come from the beginning of his career. He has definitely evolved leaps and bounds, and we can see that in his performances. He is more mature as a fighter now, and he is more complete as a martial artist.
Combining skill and veteran experience – that is when you hit your peak. He has improved so much — especially his wrestling and ground game, which we all worked very hard on for the past few years. Geje really enjoys grappling. I think he loves the science of it, and learning the different techniques.
ONE: What makes you believe Geje can beat Adriano Moraes at ONE: PINNACLE OF POWER to become the undisputed ONE Flyweight World Champion?
EF: The biggest difference this time around is Geje’s mindset. Now more than ever, Geje believes in himself and his team, and he has that unwavering faith in God. It is not going to be easy, and Adriano has prepared equally as much, but I think it is Geje’s time to claim the gold.
One thing is for sure — it is going to be an exciting match-up, and much more competitive than the last bout. Geje is ready no matter what happens in this fight. We have prepared well, and we have a great game plan in place for any situation. The only thing left is getting in that ring and taking care of business.
ONE: Do you think Narantungalag Jadambaa is the toughest opponent Edward Kelly has ever faced?
EF: I would have to say yes. Jadambaa is a legend of mixed martial arts, and a capable veteran. He is definitely Edward’s toughest opponent.
We are very familiar with Jadambaa, because he has already taken on two Filipinos – first, it was Honorio [Banario], and then it was Edward’s brother, Eric, so this will not be the first time we will be encountering Jadambaa. In my opinion, it is a very dangerous fight, and Edward needs to be well-prepared heading into this match-up.
ONE: How can Edward Kelly beat the former ONE Featherweight World Champion?
EF: With the right game plan, Edward will be able to defeat Jadambaa. Jadambaa is a very talented striker, and extremely powerful. It will be difficult to trade strikes with him, because he is also incredibly durable and strong. His chin is made of rock.
He does not have many weaknesses, so this is no doubt a tough fight for Edward. But coach Mark [Sangiao] is coming up with a sound game plan, and if Edward can execute it correctly, then he can achieve victory.
ONE: Also at the show, Danny Kingad meets “The Southern Eagle” Ma Hao Bin. Do you think he has mentally recovered since his loss to Adriano in November?
EF: I think judging by Danny’s performance last March against Sotir Kichukov, he has more than recovered from the loss — both mentally and physically. It was nice to see him get right back in there and perform the way he did.
I believe Danny is ready to climb up the ladder again. This time, he is much more improved. After months of training, his ground skills and striking are on a different level now. The scary part is he continues to get better. I see a bright future for Danny.
ONE: It was recently announced that you will be competing at ONE: REIGN OF KINGS in Manila this July. Are you surprised to be competing so quickly again?
EF: I always love to compete, and I am not surprised that I will be competing again in just a couple of months’ time. This is my sport, and it is always a good opportunity to hone my skills and become a better martial artist.
I will always be ready to fight. I am always in shape, and constantly training. As a martial artist, I train whether I have a fight scheduled or not. This is my life. I cannot wait to get back in the cage and test my skills once again.
ONE: Do you feel any pressure to win in front of your home crowd?
EF: There is a lot of work to be done. There is always room for improvement.
Fortunately for me, I have the greatest team supporting me, and all my teammates and my coach right behind me. There will always be that pressure to win, especially at home, but that just makes victory a whole lot sweeter. That is the beauty of our sport.
I always love to compete in front of the Filipino fans. Filipino fans are the best in the world, and they will really get behind you when you represent the flag. More than just the pressure to win, it is an honor for me to showcase my talent at home.
ONE: Also, two-division ONE World Champion Martin Nguyen will face Kevin Belingon for the ONE Interim Bantamweight World Title. What does need to do in order to defeat Martin?
EF: All Kevin needs to do is be himself. He just has to show up and perform the same way he has in beating all of his previous opponents.
Honestly, Kevin is so good at what he does. It is such a joy to watch him perform. We work as a team, and that is how we help each other. He was there when I fought Martin [in November], and he saw what happened. That one hurt, but we win and we lose together.
I think Kevin’s intelligence will show in this bout, and he will come up with his own way to win. I have complete faith in my teammate, and I just cannot wait to see this match-up. It is going to be exciting, that is for sure.
Macau | 23 June | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast