Eduard “Landslide” Folayang has enjoyed a long list of unforgettable moments in ONE Championship.
The Filipino martial arts pioneer has fearlessly led Team Lakay into battle, excited fans with a plethora of compelling back-and-forth matches, and captured the ONE Lightweight World Championship from a martial arts legend.
However, the 34-year-old Baguio City, Philippines native points to one particular victory inside the ONE cage as his favorite. It also served to be one of the most valuable learning experiences of his career.
When the promotion made its worldwide premiere on Saturday, 3 September 2011, with its inaugural show ONE: CHAMPION VS CHAMPION in Singapore, Folayang faced South Korean striker A-Sol Kwon in the night’s headline attraction.
“It was the first time ONE Championship showed the world what real, authentic, and true martial arts looked like, and I was lucky enough to be competing in the main event,” he recalls.
“My career was starting to take off, and I was really excited to find myself on the biggest stage I have ever competed on.”
The three-round lightweight contest was action packed from beginning to end.
As soon as the opening bell sounded inside the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the two warriors traded thunderous strikes at the center of the ONE cage.
Folayang, operating behind his famed wushu stance with long-time coach Mark Sangiao in his corner, gave Kwon everything he had. He connected with boxing combinations and his patented powerful kicks.
However, the bout did not go all the Filipino hero’s way, as he had to persevere through adversity. Kwon connected with a few sharp blows early in the bout, but the most significant damage came from an accidental head butt that forced “Landslide” to compete with a broken nose.
Despite accumulating significant and visible damage in the first two rounds, Folayang did not slow down for a moment. He dictated the pace of the contest, walked his adversary down, and connected with a huge proportion of his strikes.
Despite the strikes thrown his way, Kwon absorbed the shots with a smile, and continued to fire back.
“I hit him with pretty much everything, and he just kept standing in front of me with a huge grin on his face. It was amazing to see,” Folayang admits.
“The only thing running through my mind was how I would be able to control the action and get the win. I could not let my Filipino fans down. I was determined.”
With that motivation spurring him on, Folayang turned up the pressure in the third stanza in an effort to finish his rival.
“Landslide” kept throwing kicks to the body and the legs, and continued to connect with punches to the head.
He reversed the South Korean’s takedown attempt and continued to light up his opponent until the final bell rang.
Though he could not find a decisive end to the match-up, Folayang did more than enough to sway the judges’ decision in his favor, and he took a unanimous decision win back home to the Philippines.
In victory, he learned a valuable lesson.
“That bout taught me to always give everything I have in every match,” he explains.
“At the end of the day, as long as you left it all in the cage, you know in your heart that you did everything you could to achieve victory. Win or lose, you will not have any regrets, and you will only learn from the experience.”
Folayang has carried that mindset with him into every bout since then to have one of the most successful careers of any athlete in ONE.
He worked his way up the ranks and knocked out Japanese martial arts icon Shinya Aoki to claim the ONE Lightweight World Championship in November 2016. Alongside Manny Pacquiao, he has become one of the Philippines’ most popular sports heroes.
Even as his profile continues to grow, and after more bouts in the organization than any athlete other than his teammate Kevin “The Silencer” Belingon, Folayang will never forget the starting point of his legendary run in ONE.
It stands as a key moment in the annals of Filipino – and all of Asian – mixed martial arts, and will remain cemented in his memory forever.
“I was honored to headline that card,” he says.
“To have ONE Championship explode over the years and be as big as it is now, it makes that bout historical, and one that I will always be very fond of.
“When fans look back over the years and try to see who fought in the main event of the first-ever ONE event, they will see my name there. It is a very big thing for me, and I am proud of it. I was able to showcase the beauty of wushu to the world, and introduce Asian fans to Team Lakay.”