Before he became the ONE Lightweight World Champion, Eduard Folayang aspired to become a school teacher or police officer to help others.
When he stumbled upon the combat sport of wushu, however, his life changed. It set him on a path of greatness, one that he never thought possible.
“I was 8 years old when I realized I wanted to become a martial artist,” said Folayang. “There’s just a rawness that comes with martial arts. It forces you to search deep within yourself to discover who you are as a person – how you overcome adversity, and deal with everyday problems in life. Martial arts teaches lots of great lessons, and it has helped me get through a lot of difficult times.”
Today, Folayang is a world champion in one of the largest mixed martial arts promotions in the entire world. He has done what many others have only dreamt about doing.
Last November, Folayang achieved the unthinkable by defeating Japanese MMA legend Shinya Aoki to win the title. Many consider Aoki to be the greatest Asian MMA fighter in history. Yet Folayang, the quintessential underdog entering the matchup, put on the performance of a lifetime, and the rest was history.
Looking back on that title-winning moment, Folayang can’t help but reminisce of the days when reaching the world stage was just a dream.
“I never knew this was all possible. It was only in 2001, when I became a member of the Philippine national wushu team, that I realized this was my calling,” recounted Folayang. “I realized this could change my life. I was good at this, and I wanted to use my God-given talents to help my family, and build a future for myself.”
Like many others before him, it was constant hardships in life that drew him to martial arts. Sports in the Philippines has helped keep many youths off the streets, and provided an outlet for them to place their focus on something productive, rather than causing trouble in society.
Folayang explains that martial arts made him the man he is today, and that things could have turned out completely different for him. He is forever grateful that wushu entered his life, and wonders where he might have ended up without it, and the lessons it has taught him.
“Martial arts forced me to reevaluate my principles. Through the toughest times growing up, martial arts taught me to persevere. [It] taught me discipline, respect, and honor. It taught me to face adversity. It built my character,” said Folayang. “All of these traits I live my life by now? They’re all etched deep into my soul. Not just mentally and spiritually, but martial arts also pushed me physically, further than I ever thought possible.”
On April 21, Folayang will climb through the steel doors of the ONE Championship cage to headline ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, in front of 20,000 screaming fans at the Mall of Asia Arena at home in Manila. He will take on top lightweight contender Ev Ting from Malaysia.
Draped over his right shoulder as he walks to the cage will be the ONE Lightweight World Championship belt. He knows how fortunate he is to be in this position, living his dream and representing the Philippines as an MMA world champion.
“To truly be grateful for our blessings, we must always honor the past. I honor those who have helped me along the way. Those who have helped me get to where I am today,” said Folayang. “Without them, without God, none of this would be possible.
“Over 15 years ago, martial arts changed my life, and today I am blessed beyond imagination. To be able to fight for the Philippines is truly an honor, and I will do my best to make my people proud.”