When ONE Championship Chairman Chatri Sityodtong likened Eduard “Landslide” Folayang to boxing legend Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, he did so because he saw many similarities between the two combat sports superstars.
Pacquiao is of course one of the most well-loved and recognizable sports icons in history, regarded and revered by Filipinos the world over for his myriad of accomplishments inside the boxing ring. In many ways, the 33-year-old Folayang is the mixed martial arts equivalent of Pacquiao, exhibiting many of the same qualities possessed by the eight-division boxing world champion.
Last November, Folayang scored the most significant victory of his career, dethroning Asian MMA legend Shinya Aoki via a scintillating third-round technical knockout performance. It earned him the ONE Lightweight World Championship title.
After years of chasing supremacy, ever since the first-ever ONE Championship event in 2011, Folayang became the Philippines’ second homegrown MMA world champion. He had followed in the footsteps of Team Lakay stablemate Honorio “The Rock” Banario, the inaugural ONE Featherweight World Champion.
This 21 April, in front of his fans in Manila, Folayang will make the first defense of his belt against Malaysia’s Ev “E.T.” Ting at ONE: KINGS OF DESTINY, and Filipino fight fans could not be more proud of their hero.
Let’s take a look at seven reasons Filipinos love Eduard Folayang.
#1 His Tremendous Work Ethic
Filipinos are some of the hardest working individuals in the world, and they appreciate like-minded people who put in the hours and dedicate themselves to their craft.
Eduard Folayang is no stranger to hard work. The former school teacher has certainly poured countless hours into perfecting his MMA game, spending days and nights in the gym up in the high altitudes of Baguio City to make sure his technique is on point.
As a result, Folayang is one of the world’s best lightweights today, and it all came about because of his amazing work ethic.
#2 He Represents True Filipino Qualities and Values
Just like Manny Pacquiao, Eduard Folayang represents prized Filipino qualities and values. What has made Folayang such a likeable individual has nothing to do with what he has accomplished inside the ONE Championship cage, but more to do with how he conducts himself as a person, and as a man.
One of the differences between Asian MMA and its Western counterpart is the way fighters carry themselves in and out of the cage. While braggadocio and trash talk are recurring themes in the West, Asian MMA athletes instead choose to place great emphasis in representing values such as courage, honor, respect, and humility. Folayang is a solid representation of this.
It is difficult to find a fighter more humble than Folayang, much less a world champion. The 33-year-old is soft spoken and has no ill words for his opponents, instead opting to do the majority of his “talking” in the cage.
#3 Folayang Is Relatable On A Personal Level
The Filipino champion is kind, mild-mannered, and easily approachable. In more ways than one, Eduard Folayang is a man of the people, a friendly individual fans can connect with on a personal level. In the close-knit community of Baguio City, Folayang is known as an older brother, a teacher, a mentor, and a friend.
Speak to the lightweight champion and you get a sense of a man who is both genuine and kind. Folayang will always give respect to those who deserve it, and welcomes each and every fan with open arms.
This approachability has endeared him to Filipino fight fans, because Filipinos love to feel connected with their sports heroes in one way or another.
#4 He’s A World-Class Athlete And Mixed Martial Artist
Of course, apart from Folayang as a person, he is undoubtedly one of the finest mixed martial artists in the world today. A former wushu gold medallist, Folayang has lightning-quick hands and feet, with devastating knockout power flowing through his toned physique.
Just recently, Folayang added a whole new element to his overall game by incorporating well-developed wrestling and grappling skills, talents he had acquired from various training stints in the United States.
The end result is a complete, well-rounded fighter, capable of handling any situation inside the cage. To compound things further, Folayang is a tremendous athlete, gifted with natural physical ability and a deep reservoir of stamina.
#5 He Was Homegrown In The Mountains Of The Cordilleras
Another great reason Filipinos love Eduard Folayang is because he is truly one of their own. Born and bred in Baguio City, “Landslide” has lived there his whole life.
Up in the high altitudes of his hometown, Folayang hones his skills alongside his brothers at Team Lakay MMA under the careful guidance of coach Mark Sangiao. Together, Team Lakay has formed a formidable group of talented fighters who continue to live and train there, despite the success they have achieved throughout their careers. This proves the undeniable loyalty inherent in each and every one of them.
ONE Championship has paid multiple visits to Baguio City and seen the authenticity up close. Folayang and his band of brothers are as real as they come.
#6 Folayang Is An Exciting, All-Action Striking Specialist
Folayang’s fighting style is never boring. The wushu specialist always puts his weight into his strikes and is on the constant lookout for a spectacular finish each time he steps inside the cage. His style certainly promises action, and it has proven to be absolutely electrifying as of late.
The MMA veteran boasts 17 wins with only 5 losses so far in his career. Of his 17 victories, 8 have come by exciting finish, including his TKO of Aoki. Just prior to that bout, “Landslide” battered the tough-as-nails Adrian Pang for three whole rounds, flooring the Australian on several occasions.
Win or lose, there is no doubt that Folayang is one of the finest strikers in Asian MMA today, and it is simply a joy to watch.
#7 He’s A Proud World Champion
Filipinos love their world champions, no matter what the sport. Aside from Pacquiao, there have been a number of Filipino sporting icons, such as world champion of pool, the great Efren Reyes, and six-time bowling world champion, Paeng Nepomuceno. Folayang, although competing in a completely different arena, is no less the proud world champion.
Since winning the title, Folayang has made several public appearances all over the Philippines, repeatedly stating his aim to inspire the country through his example. With his prized belt in tow, the champ is always smiling, and fully embraces his new responsibility as a national hero and role model.