Stephen “The Sniper” Loman is not short on role models at Team Lakay, but the Filipino rising star credits one man as his biggest influence.
The 26-year-old Loman – who will make his promotional debut against Yusup “Maestro” Saadulaev at ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II this Friday – singles out former lightweight king Eduard “Landslide” Folayang as his greatest inspiration.
“The person I look up to the most has to be Eduard,” he says.
“When I was only starting out and I didn’t know much about this sport, I was already watching him. I was already a fan. He was representing our country and he became a champion.”
Folayang is a 14-year veteran of mixed martial arts and one of the Philippines’ pioneering athletes.
The 37-year-old captured two regional titles and then earned the headline slot at ONE’s inaugural event, ONE: CHAMPION VS CHAMPION, back in 2011.
Five years later, he claimed the ONE Lightweight World Title for the first time with a third-round TKO of Japanese legend Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki.
Having witnessed his compatriot’s historic rise, “The Sniper” gained the belief that he could emulate Folayang and work his way to the top.
“It was way back then when Eduard was in URCC and Martial Combat. In a sense, I was inspired by him. I was a fan from that point on, through to his crowning glory in ONE when he became the World Champion, up until now,” Loman says.
“His achievements really motivate me. Seeing that he’s done all those things makes me feel like I can do it too. I’m really proud of how he has represented the team and this country as well.”
While watching Folayang compete, the talented Loman was making strides in his own MMA career. And after joining the famous Team Lakay in Baguio City, he got the opportunity to witness his idol firsthand.
“The Sniper” was immediately impressed by the way Folayang honed his craft during classes, but it wasn’t any sort of superhuman ability that made him stand out — it was his work ethic.
“Back when I enrolled as a newbie, [the pro team] would train first, and then we’d come after,” Loman says. “I could really see the focus in him during training sessions. I could only watch in awe back then.”
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As the young fighter got to know Folayang, that shine didn’t fade. Instead, he became even more inspired by the superstar’s down-to-earth attitude and determination to succeed.
“At first I thought he was scary, but as the time went by, he showed me what the virtue of being a mixed martial artist truly is,” Loman says.
“When I actually got to meet him, I really saw how he carries his values with him. I was in awe at how humble this guy is and how disciplined he is. He’s not only a really good fighter; he’s an even better human being.”
From that point on, “The Sniper” realized that if he put in the work and followed Folayang’s lead, he could go on to achieve his own goals.
And just like his mentor, Loman earned championship gold on the regional circuit and then signed to compete in the world’s largest martial arts organization.
Now, he wants to continue on that path and work his way toward the ONE Bantamweight World Title, taking the lessons he’s learned from Folayang and applying them to his journey.
“The main thing I got from him really was the discipline,” Loman adds.
“The discipline in training, the discipline in our body, and the value of developing new skills.”
On Friday, “The Sniper” will showcase his discipline and skill set against a perennial contender in Saadulaev, and ONE Championship fans might just witness the start of another Filipino’s incredible rise in the promotion.
Read more: 5 Reasons To Watch ONE: WINTER WARRIORS II