Last November, the Filipino icon captured the ONE Lightweight World Title for the second time in front of his home crowd at the Mall Of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.
He has endured a tough run since then, but next Friday, 8 November, the 35-year-old believes he can get back to winning ways in a battle of strikers when he takes on Mongolian mixed martial arts lightweight champion Amarsanaa “Spear” Tsogookhuu.
The 29-year-old from Ulaanbaatar has earned half of his professional victories by knockout, but he is more than just a stand-up specialist – which he showed when he announced his arrival on the global stage with a win on short notice against Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai in the Thai hero’s hometown of Bangkok.
Ahead of this co-main event contest, Folayang reveals how he has moved on from some difficult results, and how he expects to rebound against another dangerous opponent.
ONE Championship: How is your mentality different now compared to when you won the World Title again?
Eduard Folayang: It’s still the same focused mindset as I had even during my winning run last year.
We’re coming off back-to back-losses, so it’s important for me to get a win back in order to finish the year strong. I want to give the fans a terrific performance for my last bout of the year.
ONE: What lessons did you take from your bouts with Shinya Aoki and Eddie Alvarez?
EF: I think one of the lessons I learned from those experiences is that at this level, there is very little margin for error.
This sport can be very unforgiving on small mistakes. I think that a fresh mindset is important when preparing for the next challenge, and that’s what I carry with me now.
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ONE: After your bout against Eddie, what was the next step for you to move on to a new challenge?
EF: I needed to get back to training to prepare and start fresh once again. The more I dwell on the past, the more I feel the sting of the consecutive losses.
The best remedy for it is to move on, keep on improving, sharpen the skills we’ve got, and work on the areas where we are lacking. We still have to mix up to have well-rounded training.
ONE: What effect do two straight losses have on your mentality?
EF: It’s a huge motivator for me. We lost, so we are certainly not happy about it. We faced legends in the sport who took advantage of the mistakes I committed.
I think the positive thing about having already gone through the process of losing back-to-back matches is that the adjustment will be a bit easier. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it will not be as difficult as when I experienced it the first time.
The pain of losing will probably never fade, but the most important lesson we have to learn is how to move on from it.
ONE: What are your initial thoughts on Amarsanaa Tsogookhuu based on his ONE debut in February?
EF: I can see that his game is more focused on the striking aspect, and he uses his takedowns to gain points. I think he’s a smart fighter, who uses his skills well and with purpose when he competes.
ONE: Are there things you need to watch out for against him?
EF: You can’t be careless against anyone you’re matched up with in this sport, especially at this level. Knowing he’s more of a striker, I need to watch out for what he can do, but I also need to watch out for his wrestling.
I guess I’ll have to turn ‘Super Saiyan’ when I step into the Circle. I need to show another level of my skill right now to bounce back.
Seriously though, I would rather keep surprises to myself rather than share it before the match begins.
ONE: How does it feel to be facing another high-level striker?
EF: We can’t choose who we’re competing against, and this sport is unpredictable. Even if he is a striker, I’ll have to wait and see what he does inside the Circle.
I don’t want to focus on what he’s perceived to be because he can always have a game plan that might be completely different, so we’re really preparing for any possible scenario. If we stay on our feet, you know that I’m a striker as well, so I can play my game.
However, I can’t rely on that because we made that mistake before against Eddie. I knew he was a striker, but I focused too much on that, and almost forgot that it was a mixed martial arts bout. He used that momentary slip of my mind to get the win over me, so now, I’m preparing for any aspect of the game.
ONE: What do you look forward to in this match?
EF: I’m excited to see the results of our preparations and how I can execute our game plans in the Circle. If I can pull it through as we planned, I’m 100-percent certain that the result will be in our favor.
ONE: For the fans, why do you think they shouldn’t miss this match?
EF: This will be a chance for them to see if ‘only carabaos grow old.’
The card will be exciting from start to finish, and for our match, it will be a clash between two powerful strikers. People always enjoy seeing two fighters on their feet going toe-to-toe against each other.
ONE: How important is it for you to get a decisive win?
EF: It is important because we have a goal to get back into the World Title contention, so as much as possible, we need to make a statement for everyone. We’re hoping for [a stoppage] and more.