Former ONE Lightweight World Champion Eduard “Landslide” Folayang will try to catapult himself back to the top of his stacked division on Friday, 31 January.
Ahead of his lightweight clash in front of his compatriots, the 36-year-old looks back on his life’s work, as well as the people, community, and society that raised him.
Supporting His Family Through Martial Arts
Growing up in Baguio City, Folayang’s family was tragically impoverished. The Filipino was one of nine children, five of whom passed away due to sickness, simply because they did not have access to proper medical care.
His father toiled as a laborer and part-time farmer, while his mother worked at a laundromat, and both of his parents never learned to read or write. It is something they made sure did not happen to their children.
“My parents sacrificed a lot to bring us to school. Sometimes, they even borrowed money just for us to pay our tuition fees,” Folayang recalls.
“In their daily lives, they didn’t focus on just one job. They found extra work that they could do, so that it would compensate for the needs that we had.”
Though his mother and father had hoped he would become a police officer following his education, Folayang had other plans.
He picked up martial arts and took up a wushu college scholarship to help pay his way and lessen the burden on his parents. It was a decision that would change his life forever.
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After proving talented enough to join the Philippine Wushu Team, Folayang won eleven major medals, including three golds at the Southeast Asian Games. Plus, while still actively participating in the discipline, he adapted his skills for mixed martial arts in 2007.
Inspired to work as hard as his parents were, he did so all while teaching English and Physical Education in high school after graduating from the University of the Cordilleras.
As the most prominent member of Team Lakay, “Landslide” made his professional debut for a Filipino promotion in June 2007, taking on its then-undefeated welterweight champion. He knocked out the titleholder in the first round and took home the belt. Just like that, martial arts became the means for him to inspire others with his abilities.
“The reason I compete is because I have the passion for it, and because I know God has given me the ability to influence my countrymen,” Folayang says.
“There are a lot of problems in the Philippines. We’ve seen the effect of drugs on the Filipino people.
“As an athlete, I want to inspire the youth to not waste their lives on doing drugs, but to find the purpose of their existence – to find if they have the talent in sports or whatever areas they are talented in.”
Becoming A World Champion And Filipino Hero
Folayang racked up eight more wins and one loss before signing with ONE Championship in 2011. He participated in the main event of the organization’s inaugural show, ONE: CHAMPION VS CHAMPION, and defeated A-Sol Kwon by unanimous decision.
Although “Landslide” experienced some mixed results in the following year, he was determined to turn his luck around and come back stronger.
“I took some time off, gathered my thoughts, and re-evaluated my career,” he explains.
“I knew I had to go on as a martial artist. I knew I had to persevere. I knew the best of me was still deep inside somewhere.”
For much of 2015, Folayang made regular trips to the United States in an effort to polish his skills. He visited many gyms to improve both his striking and wrestling, and the results showed almost instantly.
The Filipino returned to ONE in 2016, and had the best year of his career. He dominated Japanese debutant Tetsuya “MMA Fantasista” Yamada via decision in January.
He followed that up with a thrilling win over Australia’s Adrian “The Hunter” Pang later that August, and then defeated Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki to capture the ONE Lightweight World Championship in November.
Immediately after defeating the living legend and realizing a lifelong goal of becoming a World Champion, Folayang was instantly put in a position he did not quite expect. Nonetheless, he embraced it.
“Being champion gave me the opportunity to touch the lives of so many,” he says. “Even by just giving the fans a single evening, just one performance that can prove to them that anything is possible if you really want it, means the world to me.”
Keeping the World Title – not for glory, but for the ability to provide his people with hope and faith in limitless possibilities – was Folayang’s driving mission.
For a while, he stood as the king of the promotion’s stacked lightweight division. He was at the top of a food chain teeming with hungry sharks.
Ultimately, “Landslide” dropped the belt to current ONE Featherweight World Champion Martin “The Situ-Asian” Nguyen in November 2017. But when the crown was vacated one year later, the Filipino icon recaptured the championship by defeating Amir Khan.
Though Folayang’s second reign as the lightweight king ended abruptly when Aoki beat him for the gold in March 2019, he is driven to reclaim the throne once again.
On Friday, the Team Lakay representative continues his journey towards becoming the first person to have three reigns as the ONE Lightweight World Champion. Should he defeat Buist in the Philippine capital, he will be one step closer to fulfilling that record-setting goal.
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