Reigning ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang has had a glorious martial arts career, spanning over a decade of excellence. He has participated in some of the most memorable bouts in Asian martial arts history, inspiring fans with both his awesome skills and tenacious hunger for victory.
The 33-year-old Baguio City, Philippines native is on the cusp of making history yet again, as he defends his title against newly-crowned ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen. The showdown takes place in the main event of ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD, and will be the first-ever ‘World Champion vs World Champion’ cross-divisional super bout in the promotion’s history.
Before he takes to the cage in Manila’s Mall Of Asia Arena on Friday, 10 November, Folayang has taken the time to list the three most memorable bouts of his career, and why they have left such a lasting impression on the Filipino hero.
#1 His Date With Destiny Against The Legendary Shinya Aoki
This was an obvious pick at number one. In Folayang’s most career-defining moment, the Filipino wushu stalwart stepped onto the battlefield as a massive underdog against legendary Japanese martial artist, Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki, at ONE: DEFENDING HONOR in November 2016. That was when he scored the most important victory of his life.
“Taking on a legend like Shinya was a dream come true for me. I had worked so hard to get to that point. A lot of sacrifices were made, and I was once very close to giving up. But I knew that if I could put it together, a win over him would change my life,” he says.
After spending the entire first round fending off Aoki’s multiple submission attempts, Folayang began to come into his own in the middle of the second stanza. He visibly rocked Aoki on various occasions with stinging body shots and his trademark kicks. In the third round, “Landslide” landed a spectacular flying knee, put his punches together, and took victory by force, stopping Aoki at the midway point with a barrage of strikes.
The crowd was sent into a frenzy, and Folayang shot to superstardom.
“My conditioning for that bout was absolutely on point. I was very well-prepared, both physically and mentally. It was the greatest performance of my career,” he admits. “The game plan we came up with worked to near-perfection. The moment I became champion is one that I will never forget.”
#2 The Striking Showdown Against Ole Laursen
For Folayang’s second most memorable bout, the Filipino picks a match in which he actually lost, owing to his incredibly humble nature. At ONE: WAR OF THE LIONS in March of 2012, Folayang took on Filipino-Danish sensation Ole “Iron Fist” Laursen in a highly-anticipated three-round lightweight affair between two of the hottest martial arts stars in Asia.
“It was just an all-out war from start to finish, and it will always be one of the most memorable of my career, because it forced me to dig very deep, and prove to myself that I had what it took to take his best shots and keep moving forward,” Folayang explains.
“It is these kinds of bouts — even if I lost, even if defeat was very painful — that I treasure most, because it really reminds me that I am a martial artist. We live for these moments, these tremendous battles where we can display our courage, heart, and skill.”
Laursen ended up taking home a split decision victory after three rounds of incredible back-and-forth action, but Folayang credits the bout for teaching him to never give up, and to always keep fighting for his dreams.
#3 Headlining ONE’s First-Ever Show
Now we flash back to September 2011. In the promotion’s inaugural event dubbed ONE: CHAMPION VS CHAMPION, a then 27-year-old Folayang headlined the card against South Korean star A-Sol Kwon. There was a lot of pressure on both martial artists to put on a spectacular show in ONE’s first-ever main event, and they certainly delivered.
“This bout, in fact this entire event, will always have a place in my heart,” Folayang says. “I was on the biggest stage of martial arts, headlining the first-ever ONE Championship event. Everything that came after this has been icing on the cake. Whenever I look back on this moment, and how far I have come, it never fails to put a smile on my face.”
This match was the first step towards his path to greatness in the ONE cage. His unanimous decision victory over Kwon, a bout which earned “Bout of the Night” honors, kickstarted the beginning of his illustrious run through the ranks, and his eventual capture of the ONE Lightweight World Championship.
“It will always remain one of my most crowning achievements, to have helped build this great organization into the great spectacle it is today, and to have competed in ONE Championship’s very first event.”